Can diabetes cause hearing loss?

FEATURE – Diabetes and hearing loss are among America’s most widespread health concerns. Nearly 26 million people in the United States have diabetes, while an estimated 34.5 million suffer from some type of hearing loss. It appears there is an overlap between the two.

Connection between diabetes and hearing loss

A recent study found that hearing loss is twice as common in people with diabetes as it is in those who don’t have the disease. Also, of the 79 million adults in the U.S. who have prediabetes, the rate of hearing loss is 30 percent higher than in those with normal blood glucose levels.

Right now, we don’t know exactly how diabetes is related to hearing loss. It’s possible that the high blood glucose levels associated with diabetes cause damage to the small blood vessels in the inner ear, similar to the way in which diabetes can damage the eyes and kidneys. But more research needs to be done to discover why people with diabetes have a higher rate of hearing loss.

Signs of hearing loss

Since it can happen gradually, the symptoms of hearing loss are often hard to notice. In fact, family members and friends are sometimes aware of someone’s hearing loss before the person actually experiencing it. Common warning signs include:

  • Frequently asking others to repeat themselves
  • Trouble following conversations that involve more than two people
  • Thinking that others are mumbling
  • Problems hearing in noisy places such as busy restaurants
  • Trouble hearing the voices of women and small children
  • Turning up the TV or radio volume too loud for others who are nearby

What should I do if I suspect I have hearing loss?

Talk to your audiologist or a doctor who specializes in hearing and balance problems. From a full hearing exam by a doctor of audiology, you’ll learn more about your hearing loss, such as type, cause and severity, as well as how it may be impacting your daily life. You will also be given the latest treatment options.

Dr. Lance F. Greer
Dr. Lance F. Greer

Written by Dr. Lance F. Greer for St. George Health & Wellness magazine and St. George News.

Originally from Heber, Ariz., Greer earned a Masters of Science in Audiology from BYU in 1997 and a doctorate from the PCO School of Audiology in 2003. He is the co-owner of Advanced Hearing & Balance Specialists and director of the newborn hearing screening program at Dixie Regional Medical Center. A member of the Dixie Sunrise Rotary Club, he has a passion for serving others in the community. He lives in St. George with his wife and five children.

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