The Connection Between Hearing Loss and Diabetes

An excerpt from the Better Hearing Institute (BHI)

Hearing loss is about twice as common in people with diabetes compared to those without the disease, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Yet, unlike eye exams, hearing health examinations are often overlooked in the routine regimen of care for people with diabetes. In February of 2012, in fact, almost all of the 400 people who underwent hearing tests at the American Diabetes Association’s Expo in Portland, Oregon, said they had never received a physician’s recommendation for a hearing test. More than half of these 400 individuals were found to have hearing loss. And nearly 100 percent of them said they did not know that hearing loss is associated with diabetes.

Unfortunately, the ramifications for leaving hearing loss unaddressed can be significant. Numerous studies link unmanaged hearing loss to a wide range of physical and emotional conditions, including depression, impaired memory and ability to learn new tasks, increased risk to personal safety, reduced job performance and earning power, and diminished psychological and overall health. A study conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins and the National Institute on Aging even found that seniors with hearing loss are significantly more likely to develop dementia over time than those who retain their hearing.

Research also suggests that by keeping diabetes under control, people can help minimize potential diabetes-related hearing damage. Researchers at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit found that women between the ages of 60 and 75 with well-controlled diabetes had better hearing than women whose diabetes was poorly controlled.

“A certain degree of hearing loss is common with aging, bit is often accellerated in patients with diabetes, especially if blood-glucose levels are not being controlled,” said senior study author Kathleen L. Yaremchuk, M.D., Chair of the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

“Our study really points to the importance of patients controlling their diabetes and paying attention to their hearing health.”

According to BHI (Better Hearing Institute), the vast majority of people with hearing loss, including those with diabetes, can benefit from hearing aids. In fact, studies show that when people with mild-to-profound hearing loss use hearing aids, they experience decreased depressive symptoms, anxiety and emotional instability; significant improvements in quality of life and functional health status; and have significantly higher self-concepts compared to individuals with hearing loss who do not wear hearing aids. U.S. research also shows that the use of hearing aids reduces the risk of income loss, and that those who use hearing aids are twice as likely to be employed as their peers who do not use hearing aids. According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), 366 million people worldwide had diabetes in 2011, and by 2030 this figure will rise to 552 million.