The link between diabetes and hearing loss has been debated since the 1960’s. Patients with diabetes are more than twice as likely as those without the disease to have hearing loss; according to a recent National Institutes of Health (NIH) study. Overall, more than 40 percent of people with diabetes in several studies had some degree of hearing loss.
Where is the connection?
Although we still don’t fully understand the connection between hearing loss and diabetes, we do know that your hearing depends on small blood vessels and nerves in the ear. Researchers believe that over time high blood sugar levels can damage these vessels and nerves. This damage to the blood vessels is also what causes the eye, kidney, and nerve diseases that are common complications of diabetes. Others caution that certain medications commonly used by diabetic patients such as diuretics, may be a contributing factor.
When you get your eye’s tested, don’t forget the ears!
For years, physicians who treat people with diabetes have regularly ensured that their patients receive vision check-ups. The evidence linking diabetes and hearing loss emphasizes the need for patients to get their hearing checked as well. If you are a diabetes patient, we strongly encourage you to ask your physician to test your hearing each time you receive a vision test. Preventive care will help identify any potential hearing loss and allow you to seek treatment options.
Remember, hearing loss can progress very slowly making it hard to realize it is happening to you.