Diabetes & hearing loss Control your diabetes to limit risks
Though not as well known as neuropathy in the hands and feet, hearing loss can be a complication of uncontrolled diabetes
A SURPRISING COMPLICATION
Ed Weinsberg wasn’t surprised when he developed burning sensations in his feet in 2006. His health care provider had told him he might experience this sign of peripheral neuropathy, a side effect of his recently diagnosed type 2. Medication helped reduce the sensations. But a few years ago, Ed, 67, a former rabbi and author, began to experience frustrating hearing problems.
“Every sentence began with, ‘What did you say?’” he says. “My ear, nose and throat doctor wasn’t sure what was behind it.” By then Ed had already lost 50 per cent of his hearing in his left ear. “But I suspected there might be a connection with my diabetes,” he says. “I know it reduces blood flow to other parts of the body.”
Ed was onto something. Research shows people with uncontrolled type 1 or type
2 are twice as likely as others to experience hearing loss. In a large study of people aged 20-69 by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (US), a strong association was found between diabetes and hearing problems, emerging as early as age 30.
Another study, from Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, reached much the same conclusion. Researchers found in women younger than 60, hearing was worse among those with type 1 or type 2 compared with women without diabetes, says study coauthor Kathleen Yaremchuk. And women ages 60-75 with poorly controlled diabetes had significantly worse hearing than those whose diabetes was considered well-controlled.
“When you think about complications of diabetes, this is not what you think about,” says Joanne Rinker from the North Carolina Diabetes Prevention and Control Branch. “But one in three people with diabetes will have trouble with their hearing