Laura O. Robertson, Au.D

Doctor of Audiology

(603) 528-7700 • Toll Free (800) 682-2338
Fax (603) 528-9623

211 South Main Street
Laconia, New Hampshire 03246


Diabetes & Your Ears

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Diabetes occurs when the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin or when the body can’t effectively use the insulin it produces.  Insulin is needed to regulate blood sugar levels.  The prevalence of diabetes continues to increase in this country.  Current estimates suggest a 55% increase in the number of people diagnosed with diabetes by 2035.

Patients with diabetes are 2.1 times more likely to have hearing loss.  The connection between diabetes and hearing loss was first reported in publication in 1857.

Those who have diabetes are more susceptible to noise-induced hearing loss.  This may be because diabetes impairs the ability of the ear to recover from injury caused by loud noise. Research has shown that blood flow to the cochlea (the inner ear) is significantly reduced when a person has diabetes.  Other research has demonstrated that membranes within the cochlea become thicker as a result of diabetes.  These changes interfere with the biochemistry and neural innervation of the Cochlea.

These changes may cause a person with diabetes to be more sensitive to loud sounds than others who don’t have diabetes.  Thus, not only does a diabetic person lose their ability to perceive soft sounds but they also are more bothered by loud sounds than those with normal hearing.

People with diabetes may have sensitive skin and are more likely to develop an infection due to damage to their skin.  This means their Audiologist must be made aware of their diabetes diagnosis.  Their Audiologist will need to choose materials and styles of hearing aids that are less likely to irritate the ear.  A person with diabetes should advise their Audiologist immediately if they believe their hearing aids are bothering their skin.
Bumpy, ring shaped spots are common on the outer ear when you have diabetes.  Typically this condition will disappear spontaneously, and no treatment is needed.
Diabetic Neuropathy is the term for damage to nerves.  It affects up to 50% of people with diabetes.  Diabetic Neuropathy causes tingling, pain, numbness or weakness in the feet and hands.
Your balance depends on 3 systems:  your vision, your vestibular system (which is part of your ear) and your sense of the floor from your feet. Not only does diabetes lead to hearing loss but it may also lead to an increased potential to fall due to damage to your vestibular system in your ears and loss of sensation in your feet.  The risk for falls, dizziness or balance problems increases 1.75 times for those with diabetes.

 Thus, people who have diabetes need regular evaluations of their hearing AND regular evaluations of their balance function.  Check with your physician for a referral to your Audiologist. She will be a knowledgeable resource to help you manage the changes in your hearing and help you identify if you are at risk for a fall.

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211 South Main Street • Laconia, New Hampshire 03246

(603) 528-7700 • (800)

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