Diabetes and Hearing
Hearing loss is one of the many problems experienced by diabetics, which
are often put down to ‘just getting on a bit’ rather than being linked to their diabetes.
Actually Type 2 diabetes and hearing loss have been medically linked for many years, and it
is recommended that diabetics should have regular hearing tests as part of their routine
The hearing loss experienced by diabetics has different causes and
characteristics from the hearing loss associated with old age. However, many diabetics
consult a specialist about the deterioration in their hearing, without mentioning that they
are diabetic, so the link is not made.
How does diabetes cause hearing loss
There are a number of ways the ears can be affected by diabetes, and
hearing loss is frequently the result. Diabetics tend to have a lack of keratin protein which
forms a protective layer within the ear canal, enabling wax to travel outwards, and
preventing over stimulation of the ear canal tissue. Absence or abnormal levels of keratin
protein can lead to hearing problems.
Diabetes can also lead to hearing loss as it causes deterioration of the
epithelial tissue in the ear canal. This can make the ear canal overly sensitive to the type
of plastics commonly used in hearing aids, and can cause yeast, fungus, irritation and
infection within the ear, particularly when the air circulation is limited by a hearing
A third link between diabetes and hearing loss,
is neuropathy or nerve damage, which is a common complication experienced by diabetics. High blood
sugar levels associated with diabetes can cause chemical changes in the body’s nerves that
can impair their ability to transmit signals. When this nerve damage occurs in the ear’s
neurological system, people can experience problems hearing and understanding speech and also
Is the link between diabetes and hearing
loss limited to diabetes type 2 ?
As Type 2 diabetes and hearing loss have been linked in the past, it is
usually associated with getting older. However, there is some research that now suggests
children with Type 1 diabetes are also likely to experience hearing loss at an early age. The
incidence and severity of hearing loss seems to be relative to how long they have had
diabetes and how well their glucose levels are controlled.
Other symptoms of ‘old age’ can be due to
Recent research has been looking to see if there is a link between
diabetes and hair loss. Again, many diabetics put their hair loss down to getting older, and
don’t realise it may be linked to their condition. Hair loss can be caused by a number of
factors including the stress on the body of coping with diabetes, and various diabetes
related conditions including thyroid problems or PCOS. Hair loss should reduce when glucose
levels are well maintained.
Often high blood pressure can be linked to diabetes, and hair loss can be
caused by the medication used to treat this. Once the medication is changed or stopped, hair
loss should reduce.
In the same way as diabetes and hearing loss, and diabetes and hair loss,
deterioration of vision is often accredited to old age rather than diabetes. Diabetics can
experience retinopathy which damages the vessels that supply blood to the retina. This can
cause a gradual decline in vision.
Laser treatment is very effective in halting this gradual deterioration
in vision, and is successful in 80% of cases, but early diagnosis is crucial. Diabetics
should have regular eye tests, and get checked out as soon as they believe their sight to be
deteriorating, rather than simply assuming it is a symptom of old age.
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