Ear Care and Hearing

Hearing loss is twice as common in people with diabetes as it is in those who do not have diabetes. Also, of the 79 million adults thought to have pre-diabetes, the rate of hearing loss is 30% higher than in those with normal blood sugar.

How does diabetes contribute to hearing loss?
Hearing depends on small blood vessels and nerves in the inner ear. Researchers believe that over time, high blood sugar levels can damage these vessels and nerves, making it harder to hear.

Signs of Problems
For most people, hearing loss happens over time. The symptoms can be hard to notice. Quite often, family members and friends notice hearing loss before the person experiencing it.
Common signs of hearing loss include: 
  • Frequently asking others to repeat what they say
  • Trouble following conversations that involve more than two people
  • Thinking that others are mumbling
  • Problems hearing in noisy places such as busy restaurants
  • Trouble hearing the voices of women and small children
  • Turning up the TV or radio volume too loud for others who are nearby

Regular Hearing Exams
Your doctor may not always screen for hearing loss during a physical. Even if your doctor does check for hearing loss, you may still "pass" the screening test in a quiet exam room. Ask your healthcare team if you should see an audiologist or Ear-Nose-Throat Specialist (ENT).
When you go to see your audiologist or ENT:
  • Tell them that you have diabetes
  • Request an Otoacoustic (o-to-ah-ku-stik) Emissions (e-mish-uns) test (OAE) to check the condition of the small hair cells in the ear

Preventing Hearing Problems 
Here are some tips that you can use to prevent hearing problems in the

  • Follow the 80 for 90 rule: listen to headphones at no higher than 80% of the highest volume for no longer than 90 minutes.
  • Protect your ears in noisy situations with earplugs.
  • Manage your blood sugar level.
  • Clean your ears regularly.
  • Do not swab or insert foreign objects into your ears.
  • Eat healthy meals with vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean meats.