Diabetes and Hearing Loss – The Connection

Diabetes and Hearing Loss – The Connection

The Unheard Link: Why Diabetes Can Affect Your Hearing

Diabetes, a chronic condition affecting millions worldwide, is widely known for its impact on blood sugar levels and overall health. But did you know diabetes can also impact your hearing? The reality is that people with diabetes are more likely to experience hearing loss compared to those without the condition, leading to the term Diabetes Related Hearing Loss (DRHL) being coined in 1978[1].

So, what’s the connection? It all boils down to the delicate web of nerves and blood vessels within our inner ear. High blood sugar, a hallmark of diabetes, can damage these essential structures, impairing their ability to transmit sound signals to the brain. This damage can manifest in various ways, leading to different types of hearing loss:

  • Sensorineural hearing loss: This is the most common type associated with diabetes and affects the inner ear and auditory nerve. It can cause difficulty hearing high-frequency sounds, making it challenging to understand speech, especially in noisy environments.
  • Conductive hearing loss: This type of hearing loss occurs when something physically blocks sound waves from reaching the inner ear. In diabetes, high blood sugar can thicken earwax, causing this type of hearing loss.
  • Sudden hearing loss: This rapid, often complete loss of hearing in one or both ears, is less common but can occur in people with diabetes. The exact cause is unclear, but it’s thought to be related to blood vessel damage in the inner ear.

The hearing loss associated with diabetes can be gradual and often goes unnoticed at first. This underscores the importance of regular hearing screenings for people with diabetes, even if they haven’t noticed any obvious changes in their hearing. Early detection and intervention can help minimise the impact of hearing loss and improve quality of life.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to manage your diabetes and protect your hearing:

  • Maintain good blood sugar control: This is crucial for preventing further damage to your inner ear and nerves.
  • Get regular hearing screenings: Aim for annual screenings or more frequently if you notice any changes in your hearing. We can help with this of course, to book a hearing check visit our local practice finder or call us on 0800 048 5711.
  • Protect your ears from loud noise: Wear earplugs or ear covers in noisy environments to prevent further damage.
  • Consider hearing aids: If you experience hearing loss, don’t hesitate to discuss hearing aids with your local audiologist. They can significantly improve your ability to communicate and participate in life.

Remember, hearing loss is not an inevitable consequence of diabetes. By managing your blood sugar levels, practicing ear care, and getting regular checkups, you can protect your hearing and enjoy the richness of sound for years to come.

Beyond the facts and statistics, the human experience of diabetes and hearing loss is equally important. If you or someone you know is struggling with this challenge, remember you’re not alone. Reach out for support, whether it’s from your healthcare provider, local hearing loss organisations, or online communities. By sharing your story and raising awareness, you can help others navigate this often-unheard connection.

[1] Axelsson et al. (1978) Hearing in Diabetics. Acta Otolaryngol Supplement, 356 (1), pp. 1-23.