Diabetes: Avoiding Hearing Loss

Diabetes: Avoiding Hearing Loss

Hearing goes unchecked

Avoiding hearing loss is yet another challenge for people with diabetes. Though doctors routinely monitor patients for the long-term side effects of the condition, hearing goes mostly unchecked. Poorly controlled blood glucose levels lead eventually to issues with blood circulation, kidney function, eye sight and feeling in hands and feet. With so many complications to watch for, who thinks about hearing?


A 2008 study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) showed that “Hearing loss is about twice as common in adults with diabetes compared to those who do not have the disease.” Even those with pre-diabetes had a 30% higher rate of hearing loss when compared to those with normal blood glucose/sugar levels.

Why hearing damage?

Research into the exact relationship between diabetes and hearing loss continues. It is known that over time, high glucose levels damage blood vessels and nerves throughout the body. In this case, blood flow is impaired through the damaged blood vessels that supply the ears. The hearing cells of the inner ear and the hearing nerves become starved of oxygen and nutrients, which harms these delicate structures.

Hearing loss may happen slowly. Friends and family members are often the first ones to notice hearing problems. The patient might report tinnitus, the infamous buzzing or ringing in the ears, which can be a symptom of hearing damage.

Hearing loss prevention tips

To keep hearing loss at bay, it is important to have good diabetes management and to avoid other risks.

  • Mind doctor’s orders! Follow diet and exercise instructions. Watch your weight.
  • Keep A1C levels within recommended limits. The A1C is a good monitoring tool as it provides information about average levels of blood glucose (sugar) over the past 3 months.
  • Ask  to be tested if hearing difficulties become apparent or are mentioned by others. (People seem to mumble; trouble understanding speech in noise; TV is turned up louder and louder…)
  • Protect the ears from noise! Excessive sound levels damage hearing cells and hearing nerves and may aggravate an already existing loss.
  • Ask about the effects of medications on hearing. This includes prescription, over-the-counter and alternative products.
  • Report tinnitus to the doctor. It may be the first symptom of hearing damage. He/she may want to get a hearing test.
  • If needed, get a referral to an ear specialist (ENT) or to an audiologist for an expert opinion, testing and hearing help.
  • Most of all, maintain good and honest communication with the physician. Learn about diabetes. Ask questions and be involved with your care.


To learn about ears and hearing, please see my book on hearing loss: What Did You Say? An Unexpected Journey into the World of Hearing Loss, now in its second updated edition. Sharing my story and what I had to learn the hard way.

For industry Safety training on Noise-induced Hearing Loss prevention or community presentations, please see my website: http://www.moniquehammond.com  Or email [email protected]


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