Hearing loss is common in people with diabetes

June 16, 2008

Hearing loss is about twice as common in adults with diabetes compared to those who do not have the disease, according to a new study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

"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, Ph.D., 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."

The researchers discovered the higher rate of hearing loss in those with diabetes after analyzing the results of hearing tests given to a nationally representative sample of adults in the United States. The test measured participants' ability to hear low, middle, and high frequency sounds in both ears. The link between diabetes and hearing loss was evident across all frequencies, with a stronger association in the high frequency range. Mild or greater hearing impairment of low- or mid-frequency sounds in the worse ear was about 21 percent in 399 adults with diabetes compared to about 9 percent in 4,741 adults without diabetes. For high frequency sounds, mild or greater hearing impairment in the worse ear was 54 percent in those with diabetes compared to 32 percent in those who did not have the disease.

Adults with pre-diabetes, whose blood glucose is higher than normal but not high enough for a diabetes diagnosis, had a 30 percent higher rate of hearing loss compared to those with normal blood sugar tested after an overnight fast.

The study, published early online June 17, 2008, in the Annals of Internal Medicine, was conducted by researchers from the NIDDK, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), components of the NIH, and Social & Scientific Systems, Inc., which provides support on public health topics to NIH and other government agencies.

The researchers analyzed data from hearing tests administered from 1999 to 2004 to participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Half of the 11,405 survey participants aged 20 to 69 were randomly assigned to have their hearing tested, and nearly 90 percent of them completed the hearing exam and the diabetes questionnaire. The hearing test, called pure tone audiometry, measures hearing sensitivity across a range of sound frequencies.

"Using the data from the hearing tests, we measured hearing impairment in eight different ways. Also, participants responded to questions about hearing loss in the questionnaire, which asked whether they had a little trouble hearing, a lot of trouble hearing, or were deaf without a hearing aid," said Cowie. In addition, 2,259 of the participants who received hearing tests were randomly assigned to have their blood glucose tested after an overnight fast.

Earlier U.S. studies that examined diabetes and hearing loss found a weaker association or no association, but these studies were based on smaller samples of older adults, and they were not nationally representative, according to co-author Howard Hoffman, an epidemiologist at NIDCD. "This is the first study of a nationally representative sample of working age adults, 20 to 69 years old, and we found an association between diabetes and hearing impairment evident as early as ages 30 to 40."

"The link between diabetes and hearing loss has been debated since the 1960s or before, and our results show that a relationship exists even when we account for the major factors known to affect hearing, such as age, race, ethnicity, income level, noise exposure, and the use of certain medications," noted Kathleen Bainbridge, Ph.D., of Social & Scientific Systems, Inc.

Diabetes may lead to hearing loss by damaging the nerves and blood vessels of the inner ear, the researchers suggest. Autopsy studies of diabetes patients have shown evidence of such damage.

Diabetes is a group of diseases marked by high levels of blood glucose resulting from defects in insulin production, insulin action, or both. Afflicting nearly 21 million people in the United States, it is a major cause of heart disease and stroke and the most common cause of blindness, kidney failure, and lower limb amputations in adults. Pre-diabetes, which causes no symptoms, affects about 54 million adults in the United States, many of whom will develop type 2 diabetes in the next 10 years. Pre-diabetes raises the risk of a heart attack or stroke even if diabetes does not develop. People with pre-diabetes can often prevent or delay diabetes if they lose a modest amount of weight by cutting calories and increasing physical activity. People with diabetes also benefit from diet and exercise as well as medications that control blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol. For information about the causes, prevention, and treatment of diabetes, see diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/>.

Most NHANES participants with diabetes had type 2 diabetes, which accounts for up to 95 percent of diabetes cases in the United States. Type 2 diabetes usually appears after age 40, and is more common in overweight, inactive people and in those with a family history of diabetes.

Hearing loss is a common problem caused by aging, disease, heredity, and noise. About 17 percent of American adults—36 million people—report some degree of hearing loss. There is a strong relationship between age and reported hearing loss: 8 percent of American adults 18 to 44 years old, 19 percent of adults 45 to 64 years old, and 30 percent of adults 65 to 74 years old report trouble with hearing. For information about the causes and treatment of hearing loss, see www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing/>.

Source: NIH/National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Explore further: Looking to take type 2 diabetes into remission

Related Stories

Looking to take type 2 diabetes into remission

January 8, 2018
Since launching two years ago, an innovative study, led by Western professor Irene Hramiak, aims to induce remission of type 2 diabetes and has captured the attention of hundreds of Londoners. For those with type 2 diabetes, ...

Preventing dementia: The promising, the disappointing and the inconclusive

December 26, 2017
What's proved to prevent the development of dementia after the age of 80?

Study: Diabetes affects hearing loss, especially in women

January 26, 2012
Having diabetes may cause women to experience a greater degree of hearing loss as they age, especially if the metabolic disorder is not well controlled with medication, according to a new study from Henry Ford Hospital in ...

Review: Type 2 diabetes linked to hearing impairment

April 28, 2016
(HealthDay)—Type 2 diabetes may raise the risk of hearing loss, according to a review published recently in Current Diabetes Reports.

Advances in genetic sequencing diagnose Paralympic hopeful's rare condition

June 16, 2013
National Paracycling Champion Tom Staniford has an extremely rare condition which, until now, has puzzled his doctors. He is unable to store fat under his skin – yet has type 2 diabetes – and suffered hearing loss as ...

Nearly one in seven Hispanic/Latino adults has some hearing loss

May 28, 2015
In the largest study to date of hearing loss among Hispanic/Latino adults in the United States, researchers have found that nearly 1 in 7 has hearing loss, a number similar to the general population prevalence. The analysis ...

Recommended for you

Building better tiny kidneys to test drugs and help people avoid dialysis

February 16, 2018
A free online kidney atlas built by USC researchers empowers stem cell scientists everywhere to generate more human-like tiny kidneys for testing new drugs and creating renal replacement therapies.

Expanding Hepatitis C testing to all adults is cost-effective and improves outcomes

February 16, 2018
According to a new study, screening all adults for hepatitis C (HCV) is a cost-effective way to improve clinical outcomes of HCV and identify more infected people compared to current recommendations. Using a simulation model, ...

Study suggests expanded range for emerging tick-borne disease

February 16, 2018
Human cases of Borrelia miyamotoi, a tick-borne infection with some similarities to Lyme disease, were discovered in the eastern United States less than a decade ago. Now new research led by the Yale School of Public Health ...

Flu shot only 36 percent effective, making bad year worse (Update)

February 15, 2018
The flu vaccine is doing a poor job protecting older Americans and others against the bug that's causing most illnesses.

IFN-mediated immunity to influenza A virus infection influenced by RIPK3 protein

February 15, 2018
Each year, influenza kills half a million people globally with the elderly and very young most often the victims. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 37 children have died in the United States ...

A new class of drug to treat herpes simplex virus-1 infection

February 14, 2018
For patients with the herpes simplex-1 virus (HSV-1), there are just a handful of drugs available to treat the painful condition that can affect the eyes, mouth and genitals.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.