Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, is a symptom of damage to the ear. Sometimes, this can be caused by high blood sugar. Learn more about diabetes and tinnitus.
Ringing in the ears, also known as tinnitus, is one of the most common health conditions in the United States, according to the American Tinnitus Association 12. Tinnitus impacts an estimated 15 percent of Americans, or about 50 million people. Tinnitus is characterized by a persistent sensation of ringing, buzzing, hissing, whistling or clicking when no external sound is present. However, tinnitus is not itself a disease. Rather, it is a symptom of damage to parts of the ear. This can be caused by exposure to loud noise, or by any number of different medical conditions, including diabetes.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Common Causes of Tinnitus
If you suffer from tinnitus, it’s important that you see a doctor to determine the underlying cause. It can also be a side effect of large doses of certain medications, such as aspirin or quinine. If your doctor finds that none of these are the cause, he or she may order further tests to determine if your tinnitus is being caused by a medical condition.
Diabetes and Tinnitus
Diabetes is a metabolic disorder which causes higher than normal blood sugar levels, as described by the American Diabetes Association 124. Blood sugar, also called glucose, is one of the body's main sources of energy: The cells need glucose in order to function. But if diabetes is not managed correctly, high blood sugars can lead to nerve and tissue damage over time.
"Tinnitus happens when the auditory nerve is disturbed," says Samar Hafida, MD, an endocrinologist at Harvard's Joslin Diabetes Center. "High blood sugar can irritate [these] nerves, causing tinnitus."
Hafida points out that the condition is more common in people with type 2 diabetes. "Type 2 diabetes is a generally more complicated metabolic dysfunction [than type 1 diabetes]," she explains. "People with type 2 diabetes tend to have many more comorbidities [additional medical conditions] like heart disease, and they're likely to be on more medications, [such as those for] high cholesterol and high blood pressure." (These kinds of medications can also cause tinnitus, according to GoodRx.com. 8)
The complex mechanisms of the inner ear require a steady supply of glucose in order to function properly, as described by a study published in the July 2016 International Archives of Otorhinolarlyngology. However, people with diabetes are more prone to blood sugar fluctuations. This can change the way glucose is received by the ear, which can cause tinnitus symptoms to become worse, according to the Salem Audiology Clinic 57.
Blood Sugar Management
According to a study published in the September 2014 Siriraj Medical Journal, people with diabetes who also had tinnitus saw improvement in their tinnitus when they followed a healthy diet, took blood sugar-lowering medications and kept their blood sugar within target levels.
This is good news: Because diabetes-related tinnitus is caused by persistent high blood sugar, proper blood sugar management can help correct this condition — and improve your overall health.
Ringing in the ears and other tinnitus symptoms can be just a minor annoyance, or severe enough to impact your quality of life. If you suffer from this condition, see your doctor for an evaluation, treatment options and support. If your tinnitus is caused by high blood sugar levels, work with your doctor on strategies to regulate your blood sugar through diet modifications, increased physical activity and, if necessary, medication.cause:
- If your tinnitus is caused by high blood sugar levels
- work with your doctor on strategies to regulate your blood sugar through diet modifications
- increased physical activity and
- if necessary
- American Tinnitus Association: Understanding the Facts
- British Tinnitus Association: What Causes Tinnitus?
- IAO: Hearing Loss, Dizziness, and Carbohydrate Metabolism
- American Diabetes Association:Blood Sugar and Insulin at Work
- Salem Audiology Clinic: How Could Sweets Affect Tinnitus
- Siriraj Medical Journal: Incidence of Hearing Loss, Tinnitus and Vertigo among Diabetes Patients
- Mayo Clinic: Tinnitus
- GoodRx.com: "11 Prescriptions That May Cause Ringing in the Ears (Tinnitus)"
- Zabavna/iStock/Getty Images