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Diabetes and Hearing Problems, Listen Up

Diabetes and hearing problems

You may be familiar with some of the complications associated with diabetes, such as vision problems, diabetic neuropathy, and kidney failure. Now a new study to be published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism warns that people who have diabetes should listen up, because they may be at increased risk of developing hearing problems.

Diabetes affects all parts of the body

Diabetes is a metabolism disorder that has far-reaching effects, and it seems that researchers are finding new complications all the time. The latest one comes from a research team in Japan, which reports that individuals who have diabetes have more than a twofold prevalence of hearing impairment than people without diabetes.

The meta-analysis involved 13 studies including 20,194 participants. According to the study's lead author, Chika Horikawa, RD, MSc, of Niigata University in Japan, the team found that the severity of hearing problems was not significantly affected by whether participants were matched for gender or age or whether they had been exposed to noisy environments.

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Previous studies of diabetes and hearing loss
Another new study on diabetes and hearing loss, published in Ontology & Neurotology in December 2012 and involving more than 52,000 individuals, reported that having diabetes significantly (more than 1.5-fold) increases a person's risk of developing sensorineural hearing loss, which is hearing loss associated with damage to the inner ear.

A recent study conducted in India examined the hearing abilities of diabetic patients and compared them with non-diabetic controls. Researchers found that individuals who have poorly controlled diabetes have a significant degree of hearing loss in high frequencies when they are compared with individuals with well-controlled and uncomplicated diabetes.

The bottom line
According to the results of the latest study from Japan, "it is believed that over time, high blood glucose levels can damage vessels...and nerves diminishing the ability to hear," noted Horikawa. Therefore, individuals who have diabetes should be aware that of possible hearing loss and be tested at an earlier age than people who do not have diabetes.

Horikawa C et al. Diabetes and risk of hearing impairment in adults: a meta-analysis. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 2013 Jan.
Lin SW et al. Risk of developing sudden sensorineural hearing loss in diabetic patients: a population-based cohort study. Otology & Neurotology 2012 Dec; 33(9): 1482-88
Sunkum AJ, Pingile S. A clinical study of audiological profile in diabetes mellitus patients. European Archives of Otorhinolaryngology 2012 Jun 14

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