The Link Between Hearing Impairment and Diabetes

As you may know, many health conditions—like hearing impairment—are linked to each other in some way, and knowledge of these connections is vital in helping diagnose, treat, and manage certain conditions, like diabetes. Until recently, hearing loss had not been linked to diabetes in any way. But that has finally changed. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) has recognized hearing loss as being more common in people with diabetes. With this recognition, the ADA has now added audiology to its table on referrals for initial diabetes care management in its recent updated Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes-2021 published in the January 2021 edition of Diabetes Care, the organization’s magazine.

For audiologists everywhere, this is big news. In fact, the inclusion of the link between hearing impairment and diabetes is a significant victory not only for hearing healthcare as a whole, but specifically for the executive director of The Audiology Project, Kathy Dowd AuD. The Audiology Project promotes audiology-based medical management for chronic diseases, and in recent years, they focused much of their effort on educating stakeholders in diabetes about the links between the disease and hearing loss.

The ADA document addresses the link between hearing impairment and diabetes twice in their document, below is an excerpt:

Hearing impairment, both in high-frequency and low- to midfrequency ranges, is more common in people with diabetes than in those without, with stronger associations found in studies of younger people. Proposed pathophysiologic mechanisms include the combined contributions of hyperglycemia and oxidative stress to cochlear microangiopathy and auditory neuropathy. In a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) analysis, hearing impairment was about twice as prevalent in people with diabetes compared with those without, after adjusting for age and other risk factors for hearing impairment. Low HDL cholesterol, coronary heart disease, peripheral neuropathy, and general poor health have been reported as risk factors for hearing impairment for people with diabetes, but an association of hearing loss with blood glucose levels has not been consistently observed. In the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial/Epidemiology of Diabetes Interventions and Complications (DCCT/EDIC) cohort, time-weighted mean A1C was associated with increased risk of hearing impairment when tested after long-term (.20 years) follow-up. Impairment in smell, but not taste, has also been reported in individuals with diabetes.

This sort of knowledge is crucial in helping all of us in the health care industry to provide the best in care. If you believe you are suffering from hearing impairment, whether you are diabetic or not, we can help! Reach out to us to ask any questions, book and appointment, or to schedule a time for hearing aid maintenance. As always, our goal is to help you in any way we can.

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