• To understand that diabetics are at greater risk for hearing loss than non-diabetics, and to get regular hearing check-ups if you are diabetic.
  • To learn how you can help prevent hearing loss if you have diabetes.

Time Frame: Get your hearing checked every year (or as often as your health insurance allows).

Hearing loss is twice as common in people with diabetes as it is in people of the same age who don’t have diabetes. Even people with pre-diabetes (A1C in the range of 5.7-6.4%) have a 30% higher rate of hearing loss than people with normal blood sugar levels (A1C in the range of 4.0-5.6%).

“Hearing loss may be an under-recognized complication of diabetes. As diabetes becomes more common, the disease may become a more significant contributor to hearing loss,” said senior author Catherine Cowie PhD of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), who suggested that people with diabetes should consider having their hearing tested. “Our study found a strong and consistent link between hearing impairment and diabetes using a number of different outcomes.”

Hearing loss may cause short- and long-term symptoms, such as migraine, ringing in the ear, and fatigue, and can be related to several other conditions such as depression, dementia, and diabetes, to name a few.

Also, patients with diabetes seem to be more at risk for sudden hearing loss. A sudden change in your hearing requires evaluation by an audiologist and otologist as soon as possible.

As part of taking an initial medical history, audiologists and speech-language pathologists should always ask new patients if they have diabetes.

How Does Diabetes Affect Hearing?

In a 2008 study, researchers analyzed data from hearing tests of adults between the ages of 20 and 69. They concluded that diabetes may contribute to hearing loss by damaging nerves and blood vessels. Similar studies have shown a possible link between hearing loss and nerve damage.

According to the CDC, high blood glucose levels from untreated diabetes can weaken the ear’s blood vessels as well as the nerve cells in the inner ear, known as the “hair cells.” Like other parts of the body, these hair cells rely on good circulation. Once they are damaged or die, hearing is permanently affected.

Researchers believe prolonged high blood glucose levels may lead to hearing loss by affecting the supply of blood or oxygen to the tiny nerves and blood vessels of the inner ear. Over time, the nerves and blood vessels become damaged, affecting the person’s ability to hear. Autopsy studies of diabetes patients suggest this association is caused by neuropathy (nerve damage), which is a common complication of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

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


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diabetes can damage small blood vessels in the ears and your vestibular system, the part of the inner ear that helps with balance. The CDC also states that prediabetes can be a risk for hearing loss.

You are also at a greater risk of falling if you have diabetes because of damage to your vestibular system.

If you are experiencing any type of balance disorder, audiologists can help you improve the quality of your life and work with you to evaluate your hearing and determine the type and degree of your hearing loss or balance condition.


Though not as studied as the link between diabetes and hearing loss, tinnitus (ringing in the ears) does seem to be more common among people with diabetes. In some cases, this may be from unrecognized hearing loss, because hearing loss frequently causes tinnitus. But people with diabetes are also more likely to have tinnitus even when they don’t have hearing loss.

What We Recommend

The CDC recommends that people get their hearing tested every year if they have diabetes. “Make an appointment with a health care provider to check your hearing and balance as soon as you are diagnosed with diabetes,” their page states. According to the CDC, people with diabetes should schedule an appointment with an audiologist (a health care professional who evaluates your hearing for medical problems) as soon as they are diagnosed. After the initial visit, regular exams help your audiologist find and treat ear problems early to protect your hearing and balance. You should have your hearing tested by an audiologist  when you first find out you have diabetes and then every year after.

Diabetic patients with hearing loss who are 50 or older need to be tested and fitted with hearing aids. Hearing aids are the most common treatment option for hearing loss, and you’ll find many on the market to choose from. Your doctor can help you select the best option for your lifestyle needs. Post hearing aid fittings should be followed up with aural rehabilitation, when appropriate.

You can’t reverse hearing loss, but you can follow these tips to help protect your ears:

  • Keep your blood sugar as close to your target levels as possible (ideally, within the normal range of 4.0-5.6% A1C).
  • Get your hearing checked every year.
  • Avoid other causes of hearing loss, including loud noises. Attempt to prevent hearing loss by using earplugs around loud noise.
  • Ask your doctor whether any medicines you’re taking can damage your hearing and what other options are available.


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