Diabetes and Hearing Impairment in the United States


Hearing loss, reported by more than 17% of the U.S. adult population, is a major public health concern affecting more than 36 million people. Diabetes mellitus affects an estimated 9.6% of the U.S. adult population and is associated with microvascular and neuropathic complications affecting the retina,kidney, peripheral arteries, and peripheral nerves.

Specifically, the authors of this article designed this analysis to determine whether hearing impairment is more prevalent among U.S. adults who report a diagnosis of diabetes than those who report no diagnosis and whether differences in prevalence by diabetes status occur predominantly in specific U.S. population subgroups.

The prevalence of hearing impairment was higher among individuals with diabetes in both sexes; all groups of race or ethnicity, education, and income–poverty ratio; and all age groups but the oldest (those 60 to 69 years).

For each combination of frequency range and severity, we defined hearing impairment in terms of the pure tone average in the worse ear, which designates persons with impairment in at least 1 ear. Estimates were generally similar across frequencies except those for hearing impairment of moderate or greater severity assessed in the better ear, in which the odds ratio estimate of low- or mid-frequency hearing impairment was higher, and that of high-frequency hearing impairment was lower than all the others.

In summary, our data suggest that hearing impairment may be an underrecognized complication of diabetes. Although this analysis does not focus on possible mechanisms for the association of diabetes and hearing impairment, we have identified an important public health problem that can be addressed. With the high prevalence of hearing impairment among diabetic patients, screening for this condition may be justified.