Diabetes is characterised by abnormally high levels of blood sugar and symptoms such as a strong irrational feeling of hunger, unquenchable thirst, frequent urination and fatigue, etc. It is one of the diseases of the century, reaching alarmingly increasing levels and in the long term can lead to serious health complications – an increased risk of heart attacks, high blood pressure and atherosclerosis, nerve damage, kidney diseases and failure, deteriorated eye sight and blindness, etc. Different scientists suggest that diabetes may also harm the nerves and blood vessels situated in the inner ear and in this way lead to hearing loss.
In 2008, the U.S. National Institute of Health conducted several research studies on the matter that included analysing hearing tests and diabetes related questionnaires of 11 405 participants, aged between 20 and 69. Along with those already diagnosed with diabetes, those people with a pre-diabetic condition also took part. The final results suggested that people suffering from diabetes are twice as likely to experience hearing loss than those with normal levels of blood sugar.
In 2012, the results of another detailed survey, conducted by Japanese scientists, were published and again revived the discussion concerning diabetes and hearing impairment. The survey combined, examined and classified the data from 13 studies, which included a total of 20 194 participants. The overall conclusion of the survey supported the assertion that hearing loss may be more common with people suffering from diabetes, compared to non-diabetics, regardless of their age.
Both studies suggest that diabetes and hearing loss might be correlated, although this is not yet considered a proven statement. Considering the fact that the disease may indeed damage many of the body’s vital organs after a certain number of years, the possibility that it may also lead to a certain level of hearing impairment does not seem unlikely. Good practice for diabetes patients, including pre-diabetics, would be to visit an audiologist for a routine screening once a year if possible, in order to check for any unfavourable changes in their hearing. Another useful habit would be to simply watch out for symptoms, indicating that the hearing abilities are impaired. In cases of any suspicion of hearing loss, it is advisable to inform your GP as soon as possible.