Listen Up: Hearing Loss in Diabetics

Diabetes may be linked to hearing impairment

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) People with diabetes face a higher risk of kidney and heart problems as well as nerve and eye damage. Now it looks like hearing problems can be added to that list.

Diabetes patients may have more than twice the risk of hearing impairment as those without diabetes, according to a recent study.

That risk may be even higher in patients under the age of 60.

"See your doctor regularly to prevent complications of diabetes."

The study was conducted by Hirohito Sone, MD, PhD, FACP, Professor of Internal Medicine at Niigata University in Japan, and colleagues. According to the researchers, several studies have looked at the link between diabetes and hearing impairment. However, the results of these studies did not always match up.

For their research, Dr. Sone and colleagues reviewed past studies to compare rates of hearing impairment in patients with and without diabetes. They found that diabetes patients were 2.15 times more likely to develop hearing problems than than those without diabetes.

Results also showed that the rate of hearing impairment differed by age.

Diabetes patients over the age of 60 were 1.58 times more likely to have hearing impairment, compared to non-diabetes patients over 60. Diabetes patients 60 years of age or under, on the other hand, were 2.61 times more likely than those without diabetes to have hearing impairment.

These higher risks remained more or less the same whether or not participants were exposed to continuously noisy environments.

These findings may not prove that diabetes directly causes hearing loss, but they suggest there may be a link between the two conditions.

"It doesn't definitively answer the question, but it continues to raise an important point that patients might ask about," Steven A. Smith, MD, of the Mayo Clinic, told Reuters. Dr. Smith was not involved in the study.

Lead author Chika Horikawa, RD, MSc, of Niigata University, told Reuters that the study suggests a possible risk of hearing loss in people with diabetes.

"Furthermore, these results propose that diabetic patients are screened for hearing impairment from an earlier age compared with non-diabetics," Dr. Horikawa told Reuters.

More research is needed to see if diabetes is the cause of hearing loss.

For their current study, Dr. Sone and colleagues pulled data from 13 previous studies, which included more than 20,000 participants. The research was published November 12 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

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Review Date: 
December 2, 2012
Last Updated:
December 6, 2012