Can You Hear Me Now?

Hearing loss now considered another diabetes complication

Janis Roszler, RD, CDE, LD/NBy

Dave's loved ones complain a lot about his hearing loss. They are tired of raising their voices and repeating things when they speak to him. Dave has diabetes. Could that be the cause of his hearing problem? For years, experts have wondered about the possible relationship between diabetes and hearing loss. Research now shows that this relationship exists. We know that blood glucose levels that stay elevated for an extended period of time damage nerves and small blood vessels in many areas of the body. It makes sense that the nerves and small blood vessels of the ear might be affected as well.

The journals Hearing Research and Otology and Neurology recently featured research that links diabetes with hearing loss. Individuals who had the greatest difficulty had higher than normal blood glucose levels. If you aren't certain if your hearing has changed, answer the following questions:

  • Is it hard for you to communicate when you talk to another person? At home, at work, in a restaurant, etc?
  • Is it hard for you to communicate when you are in a small group? With friends, at mealtime, etc.?
  • Do you have more difficulty hearing when you are in a noisy room, when you ride a bus, or travel in a car? How about when someone whispers to you or talks to you from across a room?
  • Does your hearing difficulties interfere with your social life?
  • Do others say that you have a hearing problem?
  • Does your hearing affect your ability to enjoy life?

If you responded positively to any of these questions, you may have a hearing problem, so get your hearing checked by an appropriate health care provider. In the meantime, here are a few ways to help keep your blood glucose level in a healthier range:

  • Review your diabetes care plan with your health care team. See if they can spot any simple changes you can make to improve your glucose control.
  • Move! The physical activity you do today can lower your glucose level for up to 72 hours. If you never exercised before, start slowly so you don't injure yourself. A brisk 10-15 minute daily walk is a great way to start. Gradually, add more movement to your day.
  • Meet with a registered dietitian and review your food choices.
  • Monitor your blood glucose level more often. As they say on dLifeTV, "Test, Don't Guess!" Very few people can accurately guess their current glucose level. The experts at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston recommend the following target ranges: Before breakfast (fasting) and before meals: between 70 – 130 mg/dl Two hours after the first bite of a meal: less than 180 mg/dl At bedtime: between 90-150 mg/dl

Your personal range may differ, so review your needs with your health care team. Hearing difficulties can affect your relationships and quality of life, so don't ignore any growing problems. Can you hear me now? I hope so!

NOTE: The information is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional or for professional medical advice related to diabetes or another medical condition. Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your medical condition.

Last Modified Date: April 01, 2014

All content on is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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by Monica Dennis
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