No difference in hearing loss between people with type 1 diabetes and those without

Posted on 28 September 2018

Side view of man's face, wearing over-ear headphones

People living with type 1 diabetes are no more likely to develop a hearing impairment than people without type 1, according to a recent study.

Researchers found that there was no difference overall in cases of hearing loss between a group of people with type 1 diabetes and their spouses, who didn’t have type 1 diabetes.

Among participants with type 1 however, longer time spent with a higher HbA1c did increase the chance of developing a hearing impairment.

Overall, these positive findings offer reassurance for people living with type 1 diabetes.

Why did they do this research?

Previous research had linked different types of diabetes with hearing loss, but no large studies had been carried out to establish how many people with long-standing type 1 diabetes develop a hearing impairment.

The researchers therefore designed this study, the largest of its kind, to assess hearing loss in people living with type 1 diabetes.

The team invited participants from the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial/Epidemiology of Diabetes Interventions and Complications (DCCT/EDIC) study. This US study has been tracking people living with type 1 diabetes for over 30 years to see how glucose levels are linked with health outcomes.

What did they find?

1,150 people with type 1 took part in the study, along with 283 spouses without type 1 diabetes, for comparison. The participants completed standard hearing tests to check hearing at pitches commonly used in speech, and at very high pitches.

The researchers found that 20% of participants with type 1 diabetes experienced hearing loss at pitches commonly found in speech, compared with 19% of the spouses. In addition, 52% of people with type 1 and 48% of spouses had impaired hearing at very high pitches.

The results mean that overall, hearing loss rates were very similar between the two groups of participants.

Within the group of people with type 1 diabetes however, longer periods of time with higher HbA1c levels were linked with an increased chance of developing hearing loss.

What does this mean for type 1?

These findings are good news for people living with type 1 diabetes and their quality of life.

However, in their paper, the researchers noted that the relatively young age of the participants (on average 56 years old) may be why they generally found low levels of hearing impairment, as hearing loss tends to develop at an older age.

The researchers also highlighted that the comparison in this study looked at married people, and previous research indicates that being married can lead to better health outcomes. It may be that further research will be needed to see if these results are representative of everyone living with type 1 diabetes.

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