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The Hearing Health Blog

  • Denise Bickley

The Diabetes and Hearing Loss Connection

Updated: Jan 3, 2022

This excerpt below is taken from the Hearing Journal November 2021

"It is well documented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that diabetes, with projections to impact one in three adults by 2050, brings with it a multitude of related risks and side effects, the most serious— and life-threatening—of which are heart attack, stroke, cancer, and kidney damage.

While there is also overwhelming evidence linking diabetes to hearing loss, it seems to fly a bit under the radar. “It is more common than you might think,” said educator and dietician Joanne Rinker, MS, RD, CDE, LDN.

Rinker estimates that the rate of hearing loss for the 34.2 million Americans with diabetes is twice as likely and 30% more likely for those with prediabetes. She added that hearing loss in a person with diabetes often presents earlier than in those without diabetes, and the risk increases when that person has co-conditions (neuropathies, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease).

Rinker’s background is in nutrition, and her first position was working with people with diabetes. She learned quickly that there are significant rewards to helping a person learn about all components of the ADCES7 (self-care behaviors for diabetes) and improve outcomes. This list includes healthy coping, healthy eating, active living, taking medication, monitoring, reducing risks, and problem-solving.

She said, “As it relates to this topic, screening and being treated for any hearing loss will reduce risks of further issues with hearing loss and the ability to process speech, interact socially, and beyond.”

Establishing Awareness Christopher Spankovich, AuD, PhD, MPH, is an audiologist and hearing scientist who says he became interested in the relationship between metabolic functional status and hearing during his work toward his PhD. In fact, his doctoral dissertation was on the effects of diabetes on cochlear and auditory neural function.

Spankovich has subsequently been involved in clinical and epidemiological studies of cardiometabolic function and the relationship to hearing and balance outcomes.

He believes the challenge to establishing awareness is lack of formal recommendations for hearing and balance screening in adults. “Diabetes does not commonly cause severe to profound hearing loss, but rather increases risk for acquired hearing acquired hearing loss and enhanced risk for balance dysfunction with onset of these problems earlier than observed in persons without diabetes,” he said, adding that hearing and balance screening allows us to establish a baseline to be able to observe changes earlier and provide appropriate recommendations for prevention and early intervention.

Recommendations are.......

1) Educating providers (primary care, diabetes educators, nurse, etc.) about the relationship between diabetes and hearing-balance and importance for the patient’s function and quality of life.

2) Routine hearing and balance screening starting with simple questions to referral for advanced diagnostics.

3) Education on prevention, such as reducing exposure to loud sounds.

4) Education on healthy living and diabetes control; this is important for hearing-balance and overall health status.

5) Improved access to audiological management services, including but not limited to hearing aids, aural rehabilitation, auditory training, etc.

The takeaway here is that there IS A CONNECTION between diabetes and hearing loss. Regular hearing screening and hearing health care awareness should be part of the ongoing care plan for individuals who have diabetes."


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