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The Hearing Loss and Diabetes Connection: Learn More About Signs and Prevention

By Keith Darrow April 23, 2023 Health and Fitness

Do you or someone you know have diabetes? Did you know that there is a significant connection between diabetes and hearing loss?

Hearing loss happens for many reasons. In past articles, we’ve discussed, ways to protect your hearing, and important tips for treating your hearing loss. But this article is going to focus on the connection between hearing loss and diabetes, especially for those in their 60s, 70s, 80s and up!

With nearly 130 million people living with pre-diabetes or diabetes, you likely have a loved one who suffers from this condition. You also probably know that it affects many parts of the body, including the feet, hands, kidneys, and eyes.

But did you know that diabetes can also lead to nerve damage in your ears?

High blood sugar levels, over time, can damage the small blood vessels and nerves in your inner ear. Low blood sugar can damage how the nerve signals travel from your inner ear to the brain. Both of these types of damage can ultimately lead to hearing loss.

Unfortunately, while we know that millions of people suffer from hearing loss around the globe, we also know that hearing loss is twice as common in those who have diabetes. Even individuals who suffer from prediabetes are 30% more prone to hearing loss than those with normal blood sugar levels.

Signs of Hearing Loss

The first thing you’re going to want to do is watch for signs of hearing loss. They include:

  • Having to turn the TV or the radio up louder than others may think is necessary.
  • Asking others to repeat themselves often.
  • Trouble hearing small children or softer voices.
  • Always thinking people are mumbling.
  • Having a hard time hearing in noisy places such as restaurants.
  • Reading lips to understand better.

So, How Can You Protect Your Hearing If You Have Diabetes?

Studies have shown that people with diabetes who have concerns about hearing loss should immediately talk to a hearing health care provider to have their hearing tested and addressed if necessary.

Changes in your ability to hear can alter your active lifestyle and social interaction with family and friends.

Ways to protect your ears if you have diabetes include:

  • Keeping your blood sugar levels in control.
  • Avoiding other hearing loss causes, such as exposure to loud noises.
  • Getting your hearing checked consistently (every year).
  • Talking with your hearing health care provider about medications you may be taking that can damage your hearing. Other options may be available.
  • Maintaining a healthy diet.
  • Exercising! Move your body regularly.
  • Avoid smoking.
  • Manage your stress.

Diagnosis of Hearing Loss

Once you make an appointment for consultation, the audiologist will review your medical history with you and assess any symptoms. Your local hearing healthcare provider will then carry out the most comprehensive cognitive screening and diagnostic hearing exam. This process includes:

Cognitive Screening

Both diabetes and hearing loss significantly increase the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Therefore, your hearing healthcare provider must provide you with a cognitive screening to help determine your risk of decline.

Determine Your Stage of Hearing Loss

A combination of hearing tests will help your provider determine your stage of hearing loss, from 1 to 4. Like many medical disorders, hearing loss is progressive (i.e., it will get worse over time), and it is important to know where you are at in the progression of the disorder.

Impact of Hearing Loss on Cognitive Performance

It’s not enough to just ‘raise your hand when you hear the beep’. To best treat your hearing loss, we must know exactly how your brain responds to words, how much effort is needed to hear others, how the brain deciphers speech from noise, and so much more.

Middle Ear Tests

This is a test where your hearing healthcare provider will insert a small probe into your ear to see how your eardrum is moving, determine whether or not it has a tear, and whether or not there is fluid buildup. This test can assist the doctor in ruling out certain other causes of hearing loss.

OAE (Otoacoustic Emissions)

This test shows how well your inner ear is responding to sound. A small probe will measure vibrations from the hair cells in response to sound.

ABR (Auditory Brainstem Response)

If needed, this test allows the provider to determine how the pathways between the inner ear and the brain are working. Electrodes will be placed on your head and attached to a computer so the hearing specialist can see brain wave activity.

Treatment Options

Sensorineural hearing loss is the type which is usually associated with diabetes patients. It occurs due to nerve damage between the inner ear and the brain. Treatment typically includes one of the following:

  • Hearing Aids – Electronic devices that fit comfortably and invisibly in the ear.
  • Cochlear Implants – Hearing devices that sit under the skin in the inner ear.
  • Auditory Brainstem Implants – An implant inserted through surgery if the hearing nerve is determined to not be functioning and is causing severe hearing loss.


Following the prevention steps above and scheduling an appointment with a hearing specialist is a huge step towards protecting your hearing if you have diabetes. Whether you are 60, 70, 80, or even a young 90, hearing is extremely important toward living your best life while aging.

If you are experiencing hearing loss, there is help available. Don’t put it off until it is too late. I hear too many times, “Doc, I wish I had come in sooner.” Put the pleasure back in hearing again.

Until next time, cheers to hearing!

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Do you or a loved one have diabetes? Have you spoken to your doctor about having your hearing tested? Have you considered the impact that blood-sugar can have on your brain, your risk of hearing loss and risk of dementia?

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The Author

Dr. Keith N. Darrow is the founder of Excellence In Audiology. He is a Neuroscientist, Clinical Audiologist and Certified Dementia Practitioner. Dr. Darrow is also a best-selling author, speaker and professor. He is passionate about helping adults prevent decline, actively age and reduce the risks associated with hearing loss. Dr. Darrow can be contacted at

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