Research Finds Link Between
Diabetes and Hearing Loss
Diabetes has been linked to a number of health problems, but the relationship between diabetes and hearing loss has been unclear. However, a large study published in 2003 found that patients with diabetes were more likely to have hearing loss than non-diabetic patients.
Researchers at the University of Maryland reviewed data from more than 65,000 patients at the Maryland Veterans Administration Hospital. About 53,000 patients were not diabetic, while 12,500 had diabetes. About 13.1 percent of the diabetic group had sensorineural hearing loss, compared to 10.3 percent in the non-diabetic group.
The researchers concluded that individuals with diabetes are 30% more likely to have hearing loss.
Researchers in Portland, OR conducted a similar study of 700 veterans. They also reported a higher prevalence of hearing loss in the group with diabetes, but found that difference to be statistically significant only in the under-60 group.
Both reports concluded that patients with diabetes should be screened for hearing loss and that patients who better control their diabetes may also reduce the likelihood or severity of hearing loss.
Other health connections
A number of health conditions have been associated with hearing loss. Most are related to cardiovascular health. It appears that conditions adversely affecting the blood supply to the inner ear can contribute to hearing loss.
A 1998 study of more than 4,000 adults found cigarette smokers were 70% more likely to have hearing loss. Former smokers were 30% more likely, and non-smokers living with someone who smoked are also more likely to have hearing loss.
A long-term study of more than 1,200 men found that men with mild hypertension were 30% more likely and men with moderate hypertension were nearly 75% more likely to have hearing loss than men with normal blood pressure.
Finally, a study of 154 men found that men who maintained good cardiovascular health tended to have better hearing sensitivity than those with low or medium cardiovascular fitness, at least for high frequency sounds. Hearing sensitivity ranged from 4 to 12 decibels better, with the greater difference for men over 50 years of age.
Deborah Touchette, Au.D.
Doctor of Audiology
Paradise Hearing & Balance Center