Diabetes & Hearing Loss: What's the Deal?
Are hearing impairment and diabetes connected? More than you might think.
Hearing loss — which affects an estimated one of every five Americans — is twice as common among people living with diabetes, making healthy habits and regular hearing checkups all the more important for overall wellness. Some 30 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, a chronic metabolic disease that isn't yet curable but can be managed. Controlling blood sugar is crucial to managing the condition, which, if uncontrolled, can lead over time to other problems such as cardiovascular disease, kidney damage, and hearing loss. Much like age-related hearing loss, diabetes-related hearing issues commonly take a toll on higher-frequency hearing. In addition, people with diabetes can have a harder time hearing speech in noisy environments such as restaurants and parties.
What's the link between the two conditions?
It's not yet known all the ways in which diabetes and hearing impairment — two global public-health challenges — are connected, but research has identified poor blood flow to the cochlea as the main culprit in hearing loss among diabetic patients. Diabetes-associated hearing loss could affect one or both ears, may occur suddenly or gradually, and could appear with or without balance problems of the inner ear, but routine hearing checks can help catch potential issues early. As evidence of links between hearing loss and diabetes continues to grow, researchers recommend that annual hearing evaluations be a standard part of the health care regimen for individuals with diabetes.
Diabetes may play a role in hearing loss, but you can fight back by helping reduce your overall risk of hearing impairment. Some prevention tips:
- Manage your diabetes if you have the disease, using strategies created with your medical doctor.
- Reduce exposure to excess noise, one of the most preventable causes of hearing loss.
- Eat a balanced, nutritious diet, which contributes to better ear functioning.
- Avoid tobacco use, a risk factor for cancer, hearing loss, and many other problems.
- Stay physically active, because excess weight not only ups the risk of diabetes but can tax your hearing.