Does Diabetes Cause Tinnitus? Why Too Much Blood Sugar Could Cause Ringing in the Ears.

close-up shot of woman using a glucometer to measure blood sugar

In order to understand the possible link between diabetes and tinnitus, it is essential to first analyze the statistics.

A 2011-2012 survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported that 15% of survey respondents experienced some form of tinnitus and 67% reported regular symptoms of tinnitus spanning over a year.

In America, 1.5 million people are diagnosed with diabetes every year, according to reports by the American Diabetes Association.

Since both diabetes and tinnitus are prevalent in America, the question that then remains is whether or not it is possible for diabetes to cause tinnitus? It is a common question and today we are going to help answer it for you.

Can Diabetes Cause Ringing in the Ears?

Type 2 diabetes can, in fact, cause tinnitus or ringing in the ears. This is due to too much insulin in the blood affecting the glucose supply to the inner ear.

Since insufficient glucose supply disrupts the auditory nerve functioning, this can lead to tinnitus. In short, the answer is yes, diabetes can contribute to the onset of tinnitus.

Where is the Evidence?

A published study conducted by Semmelweis University in Budapest compared the prevalence of tinnitus in type 2 diabetic and non-diabetic patients.

The results revealed a high prevalence of tinnitus in type 2 diabetic patients. Researchers also found that tinnitus developed at an earlier age in patients with type 2 diabetes.

Samar Hafida, an endocrinologist at Harvard’s Joslin Diabetes Center, explained that tinnitus occurs as a result of auditory nerve disturbance. In other words, when normal blood sugar levels rise, the auditory nerve becomes irritated and in turn, results in tinnitus.

Hafida also mentioned that tinnitus is more common among type 2 diabetic patients, as this condition causes more metabolic dysfunction, and consequently, greater auditory nerve dysfunction.

How Can Diabetes Cause Tinnitus?

Since tinnitus is linked to type 2 diabetes, let us understand exactly how type 2 diabetes leads to tinnitus.

Step 1: Too Much Blood Sugar

People who consume too many carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, and potatoes, often develop metabolic disorders.

During digestion, the body breaks carbohydrates into sugar molecules. Glucose is one of these sugar molecules. The bloodstream then directly absorbs glucose so that cells can utilize this energy. Glucose can only enter cells with the help of insulin.

Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas. It acts as a key to unlock and open-cell membranes and allows glucose to enter the cells.

Therefore, whenever glucose levels in the bloodstream rise, the pancreas secretes insulin in response. Once cells utilize this energy, insulin signals the liver to store the extra glucose.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin or when the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin.

Step 2: High Insulin Levels in the Blood Supply

When the body becomes resistant to insulin, blood sugar levels will continue to increase. In order to combat the high blood sugar levels, the pancreas continues producing insulin.

As a result, insulin levels in the bloodstream rise rapidly above normal blood insulin levels.

This then leads to a condition called hyperinsulinemia, or too much insulin in the bloodstream.

A study conducted in 2004 evaluated the relationship between hyperinsulinemia and tinnitus. Participants had both tinnitus and hyperinsulinemia. Two groups were established: one group who followed a prescribed diet to treat hyperinsulinemia, and the other group, who did not follow a diet.

Results revealed a fivefold improvement of tinnitus symptoms in hyperinsulinemic patients who followed the diet for blood sugar management, than those who did not. In fact, 15% of patients who followed the diet reported tinnitus relief, whereas patients in the “no-diet group” reported no change in their tinnitus.

Did you know that even caffeine can affect tinnitus symptoms in those who already have the condition?

Step 3: Tinnitus Occurs

Since the relationship between diabetes and tinnitus has been established, the question left is: how does too much insulin in the bloodstream cause tinnitus?

In order to understand this, it is important to note that inner ears lack energy reserve. Therefore, they need a steady supply of oxygen and glucose to function properly. This means that any change in glucose and oxygen levels can disrupt auditory nerve functioning.

The auditory nerve allows the brain to interpret nerve impulses as sound. Since altered glucose levels in the bloodstream can affect the functioning of the auditory nerve, this may lead to ringing in the ears or tinnitus.

Read Also: Can Earplugs Cause Tinnitus?

Tinnitus can also occur as a side effect of prescription medication taken for diabetes or other metabolic disorders.

Can Tinnitus Become Worse With Diabetes?

Any change in oxygen and glucose supply to the inner ear can affect the auditory nerve functioning, which can cause or worsen tinnitus.

Due to the insufficient energy supply to the inner ear, the auditory nerve fails to assist the brain in interpreting sound signals. This can cause diabetes to worsen the symptoms of tinnitus.

Recognizing Type 2 Diabetes

Tinnitus is linked to a condition called hyperinsulinemia, which occurs in Type II Diabetes.

To prevent the occurrence or worsening of tinnitus, the first step is to recognize the onset of diabetes. Since high glucose levels can lead to tinnitus, it is advised to take a diabetes test if you notice ringing in the ears.

Early symptoms of type 2 diabetes are as follows:

  • The urge to frequently urinate
  • Frequent thirst
  • Increased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Blurry vision
  • Cranky mood
  • Numbness in hands or feet
  • Fatigue
  • Wounds that are slow to heal
  • High blood pressure

In addition to these general symptoms, men and women may experience additional and differing symptoms.

Symptoms of diabetes in men include decreased sex drive, erectile dysfunction, and reduced muscle strength.

In women, symptoms include urinary tract infection, vaginal itching, yeast infection, etc.

Type 2 Diabetes Risk Factors

The American Diabetes Association defines many risk factors, including:

Risk TypeDescription
Agethe risk of diabetes increases with age, especially after 45 years.
Family Historygenetic factors also play a role in the development of diabetes, thereby increasing the risk for diabetes if it runs in your family.
Inactivity lack of exercise increases the risk for diabetes. For every 1 kg increase in weight, the chance for diabetes increases by 9%, according to a 2000-2002 study.
Obesityone of the leading risk factors for type 2 diabetes is obesity. Excess weight increases the levels of fatty acids, causing insulin resistance.
Gestational Diabetes occurs when the body is unable to produce insulin during pregnancy, increasing the risk for diabetes.
Ethnicity little is known about why ethnicity causes diabetes, but studies suggest an increased risk for diabetes in certain races and ethnicities, including: Hispanics, Native Americans, and Asians.
PrediabetesIs an indicator of diabetes. Prediabetes can lead to type 2
Low HDLlow levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) – good cholesterol – can increase the risk for diabetes.
Unhealthy Lifestylesmoking, poor sleep quality, and stress can affect the regulation of insulin levels, thereby increasing the risk for diabetes.

How to Deal With Tinnitus and Diabetes

Treatment and preventative methods for diabetes patients are listed below.

A 30-minute walk per day can reduce the risk of diabetes and improve heart and lung fitness.

Managing Diabetes

A healthy lifestyle can greatly reduce the chances of getting diabetes.

  • Regular physical activity: a 30-minute walk per day can reduce the risk of diabetes and improve heart and lung fitness.
  • Healthy diet: focusing on eating high-fiber foods, less processed carbs, fruits, and vegetables can reduce the risk for diabetes. More specifically, avoiding high processed carbs, sugary beverages, and trans fats.
  • Weight loss: studies suggest that losing 5-7% of your weight can reduce the risk of diabetes by 58%.
  • Quit smoking: smoking is linked to a high risk of diabetes. Smoking increases the risk of diabetes by 30 to 40 percent.

If you already have diabetes, the intake of medications, along with lifestyle changes, can prevent the worsening of diabetes. Discuss with your doctor the possible drugs to treat diabetes and their side effects.

Managing Tinnitus and Hearing Loss

The most common tinnitus management strategies include habituation, therapies, hearing aids, or the use of noise-canceling headphones.

Habituation and behavioral treatment options aim to help you live with tinnitus by changing the way you feel about tinnitus. Some individuals with tinnitus report that ignoring tinnitus has helped them manage their tinnitus.

Counseling and therapies have also been successful in alleviating tinnitus. These include cognitive-behavioral treatment, relaxation therapies like massages, deep breathing, aqua therapy, and so on.


The link between tinnitus and diabetes has been established by several studies. Diabetes can cause tinnitus as increased blood sugar levels can affect the proper function of the auditory nerve.

It is this disruption in nerve signals that can lead to tinnitus. Fortunately, diabetes and tinnitus are both preventable and manageable.