The connection between diabetes and hearing loss

The link between diabetes and hearing loss
on Tue 6 Feb


The link between diabetes and hearing loss  has been known since the 1960’s but as yet we have not discovered why this should be the case. However, there have been a number of studies about this:


  • In June 2008 the US National Institute of Health found a consistently strong link between the two conditions when they analysed the hearing tests of people aged between 20 and 69. Full article here 


  • A Canadian study in 2012 found that diabetes was significantly associated with hearing loss as a result of damage to the inner ear and that the more severe the diabetes the higher the risk.


  • In the same year an Indian Study showed that there were higher incidences of hearing loss in diabetics aged 15 to 50 than in a  control group  They also found that the longer the diabetes had been going on the greater the level of hearing loss.


  • In 2013 a Japanese meta-analysis of 13 studies between 1977 and 2011 found that diabetic patients are 2.15 times more likely to suffer from mild hearing loss.


Why does diabetes contribute to hearing loss?

More research is required at this time but several theories have been put forward:

  • High blood sugar causes the blood to thicken like syrup and this will not easily travel down the extensive network of tiny capillaries in the ears
  • It may well be that diabetes causes a breakdown in the nerves
  • The American Diabetes Association has theorised that those with a higher level of glycated haemoglobin (A1c) are more at risk of developing future hearing loss
  • Increases in blood glucose levels may be damaging the small specialised cells that regulate our hearing process (these are called hair cells)
  • Some diabetes patients may suffer from a specific type of diabetes called Maternity Inherited Diabetes and Deafness which causes hearing loss - especially of high tones.


Diabetes and tinnitus

Given this information it is perhaps not surprising that some doctors also believe that diabetes is linked to tinnitus.  A 2004 paper suggested three possible reasons for this:


  1. long-term high blood sugars can damage the eighth cranial nerve - this is key for sound and balance.
  2. high blood sugars can also damage the blood vessels thus reducing the supply of essential oxygen and nutrients
  3. elevated blood sugars can interfere with the body’s ability to create the required levels of potassium and sodium needed for balance and hearing.


Could you mitigate the effect of diabetes on your hearing?

We do know that you are more likely to suffer from hearing loss if you are struggling to manage your blood sugar levels so you should follow your medication plan and carefully monitor your levels.


It is also advised that those with diabetes have regular hearing tests.


And, of course, you should make sure your blood pressure is under control, that you manage your weight and that you exercise daily to reduce the risks of contracting diabetes in the first place


Finally, if you feel diabetes may be causing your tinnitus or hearing loss you should consult with your doctor for advice.



Although every effort is made to ensure that all health advice on this website is accurate and up to date it is for information purposes and should not replace a visit to your doctor or health care professional.


As the advice is general in nature rather than specific to individuals Dr Vanderpump cannot accept any liability for actions arising from its use nor can he be held responsible for the content of any pages referenced by an external link


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