Diabetes Self-Management Blog

If you have diabetes and have trouble hearing, you’re not alone. A new study has found a higher rate of hearing loss in people who have diabetes than in people who don’t. While other small studies have found links between the two conditions in the past, this new study has found that hearing loss is quite common in people with diabetes.

Published in the July 1 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine, the new study examined data from 5,140 adults who had taken hearing tests and answered questions about diabetes as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 1999-2004. The adults tested were 20-69 years old.

After adjusting for age, the researchers found that 21% of people who said they had diabetes had hearing loss in the low- or mid-frequency ranges, compared to only 9% of people who didn’t have diabetes. (An example of a low-frequency sound is a tuba or bass drum.) When high frequencies were tested, 54% of people with diabetes were found to have hearing loss compared to 32% of people without diabetes. (An example of a high-frequency sound is a bird chirping or a flute.)

Hearing loss appeared to affect people with diabetes regardless of their sex, ethnicity, education, or income; in general, 28% of people with diabetes were found to have low- or mid-frequency hearing loss.

The study did not show that diabetes causes hearing loss. However, the researchers pointed out that diabetes-related blood vessel and nerve damage, which can cause complications in the eyes, kidneys, and other parts of the body, may affect hearing in a similar way. They concluded “that hearing impairment may be an underrecognized complication of diabetes” and suggested that people with diabetes have their hearing screened regularly, so that those who have hearing loss can be diagnosed and offered hearing aids.

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Comments
  1. I am Diabetic Type2 and need 2 hearing aids. I am disabled, on Soc. Sec. disability with Medicare and Medicaid coverage. I can’t afford hearing aids and my coverage won’t pay for them. Do you know of anywhere I can get help with this?

    Posted by Mar120 |
  2. Hi Mar120,

    The following Web sites provide a good list of resources for people trying to obtain hearing aid assistance:

    http://clerccenter.gallaudet.edu/InfoToGo/548.pdf

    http://www.shhh.org/support/financial.asp

    Good luck!

    Posted by Tara Dairman, Web Editor |
  3. What about tinnitus? I have got a constant ringing in my ears. Could that be from diabetes, or the four years I spent in the Air Force,walking around screaming jet engines?

    Posted by bathomp76 |
  4. If you were ever in the service and are entitled to veteran benefits, more than likely you can get hearing aids via the VA. I have two friends who were in the service and both have been able to obtain hearing aids via the VA…. good luck

    Posted by Bruce |
  5. Hi Bruce,

    It appears from limited research that there could be some connection between diabetes and tinnitus, but noise-related damage is also a known culprit. You can read more about the causes of tinnitus here.

    Posted by Tara Dairman, Web Editor |
  6. I have been a practicing Type 1 since 1967 at age 30. I do have some nerve damage (peripheral neuropathy) and a sense or feeling that my hearing is not what it should be. I’ve had my hearing tested 3 times in different places over the past 8 years and each time the results showed the same type of loss. The loss could be attributed to natural aging but it could also be due to living with diabetes for 41 years and the nerve damage that I have. In either case I am now considering the new open ear hearing aids which I had the experience to try and found comfortable to wear and improved hearing. The one problem that I am dealing with is, do I want to add Hearing aid maintenance to the daily routine of Pump maintenance, CGMS maiintaince, and frequent testing of blood sugar? It is time for a CURE.
    Florian

    Posted by Florian |
  7. I am a diabetes educator. I want recent upgradation from your newsletter.

    Posted by sumi_b123 |
  8. I reacently went to an ENT doc as I have tinnitus and wanted to make sure that if there was a treatment out there to cure or make it better I would know about it. There was nothing they could do but if it got too bad a hearing aid might help. I asked if diabetes could have affected my hearing and was told yes it could. No surprise since I can’t think of any body part diabetes doesn’t affect. Bummer!

    Posted by J L Holbert |
  9. In response to Florian who has a hearing loss:

    I have had Type 1 since 1952, and have had some complications including hearing loss. I, like you, test daily, see my doctor, do A1C quarterly and numerous other maintenance items. Dealing with my two hearing aids is a minor task. They take very little maintenance and do improve my hearing. If you are disciplined enough to keep track of you diabetes than adding hearing aids will not be a problem.

    Roger Beathard

    Posted by RBeathard |
  10. I have heard that hearing loss can be linked to diabetes, but thankfully so far I have not had any signs of diabetes despite gradually increasing hearing difficulties over the years. I make sure I have regular check ups so that I know if there are any developments in my health.

    Posted by san |
  11. my mum is diabetic…and loss her hearing for many years already and now she is 75yrs old. i just want to find out if there’s are chance for her to get and use the hearing aid…(need opinion n advise)

    Posted by jue |

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