Diabetes can cause blurry vision, hunger, thirst and fatigue; a lesser known associated condition is hearing loss. In fact, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) found hearing loss to be about twice as common in adults with diabetes compared to those without the disease.
This study is alarming to many otolaryngologists and audiologists because there is no recommendation for hearing loss screenings in a diabetes care regimen. Awareness is critical in increasing screening and discovering diabetes patients who suffer from hearing loss. Many doctors fail to recommend a hearing test at the annual checkup of diabetes patients. It’s important for those with diabetes to take an active role in their health care and seek treatment for any associated conditions they may be at risk for.
"Hearing loss may be an under-recognized complication of diabetes,” senior author Catherine Cowie, Ph.D. said. “As diabetes becomes more common, the disease may become a more significant contributor to hearing loss. Our study found a strong and consistent link between hearing impairment and diabetes using a number of different outcomes."
The reason for this connection is not definitive, but some evidence is suggestive. The NIDCD study reports diabetes may lead to hearing loss by damaging the nerves and blood vessels of the inner ear.
Afflicting nearly 21 million people in the United States, diabetes is a major cause of heart disease and stroke and the most common cause of blindness, kidney failure and lower limb amputations in adults. Pre-diabetes, which causes no symptoms, affects about 54 million adults in the United States. This high incidence of pre-diabetes and the connection between dangerous associated conditions are encouraging many to evaluate their risk of developing diabetes.
See your doctor if you think you might be pre-diabetic or if you suffer from diabetes and believe you may have the beginning stages of hearing loss.