Diabetes and hearing loss: 3 things you should know

Hearing loss is nearly twice as prevalent in patients with type 2 diabetes

Posted Tuesday April 11, 2023

Recent research says that hearing loss is the third most common chronic physical condition in the U.S., and “twice as prevalent as diabetes.” And interestingly, diabetes has recently been recognised as a risk factor for hearing loss. As of 2021, about 1 in 10 adults worldwide were living with diabetes, with type 2 diabetes accounting for over 90% of the cases. Diabetes can lead to serious complications such as cardiovascular diseases, and nerve, kidney, and eye damage.

What research tells us about diabetes and hearing loss

If you have type 2 diabetes:

  1. Hearing loss may be more prevalent – a literature review analysed the findings of 18 studies that looked at the incidence of hearing loss in adults with and without type 2 diabetes. Results showed that hearing loss in the diabetic group was nearly twice as high as in the non-diabetic group.
  2. Age-related hearing loss might show up earlier – a closer look at the differences in hearing thresholds between groups with and without type 2 diabetes showed that on average, hearing loss was mild (25-39 dB HL) and tended to be more pronounced in the high frequencies (4-8kHz). Because this pattern is consistent with age-related hearing loss, these results suggest that diabetes may speed up the progression of age-related hearing loss, or even induce an earlier-than-usual onset.
  3. Diabetes might impair your inner ear functioning – diabetes damages the eyes and kidneys via small blood vessel and nerve dysfunction, and research suggests it may similarly impair inner ear functioning. At least one study revealed that compared to non-diabetic people, the cochlear blood vessel walls of people with diabetes had significant thickening, damage to the stria vascularis (part of the lateral wall of the cochlear duct), and outer hair cell loss – all of which may contribute to hearing impairment.

If you’d like further information, or to cite the research behind this article, refer to the full story on the Phonak audio blog here.