Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Diabetes Health Center

Font Size

Diabetes May Be Linked to Hearing Loss

Study Shows Hearing Loss Is More Common in People With Diabetes
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

June 27, 2011 (San Diego) -- Hearing loss is more than twice as common in people with diabetes than in people without the condition, according to an analysis of 13 studies.

The study does not prove cause and effect. But it's a good idea for diabetes patients to be screened routinely for hearing loss, just as they are for eye and kidney problems, says researcher Hirohito Sone, MD, PHD, of Tsukuba University Hospital Mito Medical Center in Ibaraki, Japan.

Smaller studies have linked diabetes to hearing loss, "but no one knew just how much higher their risk is, compared with people without diabetes," he tells WebMD.

So Japanese researchers pooled the results of 13 studies involving nearly 8,800 people with hearing impairment, of whom more than 1,000 had diabetes, and 23,839 people without hearing impairment, of whom nearly 2,500 had diabetes. The large numbers allowed them to observe trends that aren't apparent in smaller studies.

The findings were presented here at the annual meeting of the American Diabetes Association.

Blood Vessel Damage

It’s unknown why hearing loss is more common among people with diabetes, but most researchers believe that damage to the blood vessels is the main culprit, according to Pamela D. Parker, MD, of the A.T. Still University School of Osteopathic Medicine in Mesa, Ariz. She has studied the link between hearing loss and diabetes for years but was not involved with the new study.

Researchers believe that over time, the high blood sugar levels that characterize diabetes may damage the small blood vessels of the inner ear, making it harder to hear. Autopsy studies of diabetes patients have shown evidence of such damage.

Nearly 26 million Americans have diabetes and about 34.5 million Americans have some type of hearing loss, according to the American Diabetes Association.

A 2008 study showed that 54% of people with diabetes had at least mild hearing loss in their ability to hear high-frequency tones, compared with 32% of those with no history of diabetes. And 21% of participants with diabetes had at least mild hearing loss in their ability to hear low-to-mid frequency tones, compared with 9% of those without diabetes.

The new study suggests that people with diabetes are 2.3 times more likely to have mild hearing loss, defined as having trouble hearing words spoken in a normal voice from more than 3 feet away.

These findings were presented at a medical conference. They should be considered preliminary as they have not yet undergone the "peer review" process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.

Today on WebMD

Diabetic tools
Symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and more.
woman flexing muscles
10 strength training exercises.
Blood sugar test
12 practical tips.
Tom Hanks
Stars living with type 1 or type 2.
kenneth fujioka, md
Can Vinegar Treat Diabetes
Middle aged person
Home Healthcare

Prediabetes How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
type 2 diabetes
food fitness planner