Hearing loss is a major public health issue. It ranks third after arthritis and heart disease as one of the most common physical conditions. Nearly 36 million people in the United States have some degree of hearing loss. According to the National Institutes of Health hearing loss is about twice as common in adults with diabetes compared to those who do not have the disease.
A recent study found a strong and consistent link between hearing impairment and diabetes. “Hearing loss may be an under-recognized complication of diabetes. As diabetes becomes more common, the disease may become a more significant contributor to hearing loss,” said Catherine Cowie, Ph.D., of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), who suggested that people with diabetes should consider having their hearing tested.
After analyzing the results of hearing tests given to a representative sample of adults, researchers discovered higher rates of hearing loss in those with diabetes. The test measured participants’ ability to hear low, middle and high frequency sounds in both ears. The link between diabetes and hearing loss was evident across all frequencies. Hearing impairment of low or mid-frequency sounds was 21% for people with diabetes compared to 9% without diabetes. For high frequency sounds, the rates increased for both groups, measuring 54% among those with diabetes compared to 32% in those who did not have the disease.
Surprisingly, adults with pre-diabetes had a 30 percent higher rate of hearing loss compared to those with normal blood sugar.
According to Howard Hoffman, epidemiologist at National Institute of Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), “this is the first study with a representative sample of working age adults, and we found an association between diabetes and hearing impairment evident as early as ages 30 to 40.”