December 6, 2012

Diabetes Linked to Hearing Loss

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A Japanese study finds diabetics are more than twice as likely as those without the disease to have hearing impairment. The findings in this study were independent of hearing loss due to aging. This transcends the expected range of hearing impairment for the elderly.

Scientists could not explain the finding but younger diabetics were at even higher risk than older adults for hearing loss. The comparative analysis between diabetic and nondiabetic people had a correlated deficit in hearing, regardless of age.

In 2008, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) saw similar patterns in a sample of more than 11,000 people where diabetics were twice as likely to have hearing loss as those without. The current study collected data form 13 studies conducted between 1977 and 2011. The research found that diabetics were 2.15 times  more likely to have hearing loss than people who do not have diabetes.

People with diabetes below age 60, compared to their nondiabetic peers, were 2.61 times more likely to have hearing loss.  People with diabetes older than age 60, compared to their nondiabetic peers, were  1.58 times more likely to have hearing loss. Hearing loss in younger adults is more pronounced in people with diabetes. To what do we owe the dubious distinction?

It is clear that there is a link between diabetes and hearing loss. Experts are still not sure why this exists. Much of the hearing process is linked to cranial nerves. The vestibulocochlear nerve is an integral part of hearing. Knowing that diabetes can cause nerve damage, and this nerve plays a vital role in the act of hearing – could diabetic neuropathy affect the vestibulocochlear nerve?

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