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Hearing Loss May Be Linked to Diabetes

< Nov. 21, 2012 > -- Diabetes is a disease that can affect your whole body. It raises your risk for conditions such as heart disease, kidney failure, and blindness. A new research review supports the likelihood of another complication from the disease: hearing loss.

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Researchers reviewed data from 13 studies that included more than 20,000 people worldwide. They found that people with diabetes were twice as likely to have hearing problems, compared with people without the condition. Surprisingly, these findings were not related to workplace noise or age. In fact, people younger than age 60 with the disease were 2.6 times more likely than older adults to have impaired hearing.

The findings strongly suggest a link between hearing loss and diabetes. But they don't prove that the disease causes hearing problems. More research is needed to confirm the results.

In addition, researchers speculate that the reason for the connection may be something other than the disease. For instance, people with diabetes are at a higher risk for high blood pressure. They may take diuretics, or water pills, to help lower their blood pressure. Such pills may be causing the hearing loss, says Chika Horikawa, a dietitian at Niigata University in Japan who led the review.

Protect your hearing

People with diabetes who notice a hearing problem should talk with their doctor right away. Hearing loss may increase your risk for depression and dementia. These conditions can make it harder for you to manage your diabetes.

According to the American Diabetes Association, some common symptoms of impaired hearing include:

  • Frequently asking people to repeat what they said

  • Thinking that other people are always mumbling

  • Having problems following a conversation with more than two people

  • Having trouble hearing in noisy environments

  • Turning up the sound on the television or radio so much that it becomes too loud for others near you

This study was published online this week in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

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Tips for Protecting Your Hearing

Hearing loss can range from mild to profound and can be temporary or permanent. Depending on the cause, once hearing is damaged, it often can't be restored by any means, including hearing aids. These strategies can help protect your hearing:

  • Avoid exposure to loud noise by getting rid of the noise or leaving the area. If you need to shout to be heard over noise, it may be loud enough to damage your hearing.

  • Always wear ear protection - earplugs or earmuffs - when you can't avoid loud noise; for example, when using a power saw or leaf blower.

  • When using stereos and home-theater systems, avoid excessive volume. If you think it's too loud, it probably is.

  • Keep auto sound systems at moderate volumes. Doing so can help you avoid hearing damage and ensure you hear and respond to other vehicles.

  • If your workplace is noisy, wear personal ear protection, such as earplugs or earmuffs.

  • Wear earplugs at rock concerts, nightclubs, and motor sports events.

  • Use caution when setting the volume on iPods, MP3 players, and personal stereo systems.

  • Even lower volumes can damage your hearing if you listen over long periods of time. Remove the headphones occasionally to give your ears a rest.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

Online Resources

(Our Organization is not responsible for the content of Internet sites.)

American Diabetes Association - Diabetes and Hearing Loss

American Geriatrics Society Foundation - Hearing Loss

National Institute on Aging - Hearing Loss