There has been a link between diabetes and hearing loss since the 1960s, but no real pinpoint to a possible cause was found until just a few years ago.
In 2008, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conducted a study that showed hearing loss is about twice as common in adults with diabetes than with those who do not have the disease. After testing over 4,700 participants’ ability to hear a range of frequencies in both ears, there was a strong correlation found between diabetes and hearing loss across all frequencies, especially in the high-frequency range. Of the participants with diabetes, 54 percent reported a hearing loss for high-frequency sounds. Of the participants without diabetes 32 percent reported a hearing loss for high-frequency sounds.
So why is it that diabetes affects hearing loss risk?
Some researchers suggest that hearing loss in diabetics is due to poor circulation. Elevated blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels thereby reducing blood flow to certain areas and subsequently cause damages to the structures of the inner ear which are highly vascularized and do not have a backup supply of blood flow. Thus, hearing loss could be the result of permanent damages to the blood vessels in the inner ear. The American Diabetes Association theorizes that a person with a higher percentage of glycated hemoglobin, or A1c, possesses a greater risk of developing hearing loss in the future. A recent Japanese study presents evidence that hearing loss may be related to A1c levels.
The current global prevalence of diabetes is estimated to be 9 percent among adults and is estimated to affect nearly one third of the world’s population by the year 2050. Diabetes is becoming an extremely common disease, making it a larger contributor to hearing loss. Because of the relationship between hearing loss risk and diabetes, it is a good idea for people with diabetes to get their hearing tested annually to watch for drops in hearing ability.
You can lower your risk of developing diabetes by exercising regularly and maintaining a balanced nutritional diet. Doing so will keep your A1c levels lower and within the recommended ranges. Also, avoid tobacco use, as smoking increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, which can further compound your risk for hearing damage. If diabetes is already present, moderate your blood glucose levels with insulin or oral medication, whichever is required based on the type of diabetes. Reducing diabetic-related health complications can minimize the risk of developing other health problems, including hearing loss.
For more information on hearing health and to take a free, quick, confidential, online hearing test in Los Angeles, please contact a West Coast Hearing & Balance at one of our locations or call (805) 379-0824.