Diabetes Takes Toll on Women's Hearing: Study

Especially in women over 60, hearing is much worse for those with poorly controlled disease

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By Ellin Holohan
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Feb. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Diabetes is associated with hearing loss in women, especially if the blood sugar disease isn't well-controlled, new research indicates.

The study, done by researchers at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, examined the medical records of 990 men and women who had hearing tests between 2000 and 2008. Patients with diabetes were divided into two groups: well-controlled and poorly controlled.

Among women aged 60 to 75, hearing loss was 14 percent worse even in well-controlled diabetics compared to those without diabetes. That is not a clinically significant loss, noted study author Dr. Kathleen Yaremchuk, chairwoman of the department of otolaryngology at the Henry Ford Healthcare System in Detroit.

"An individual might not notice it," Yaremchuk said.

On the other hand, poorly controlled diabetics' hearing was 28 percent worse than the non-diabetic group's hearing.

Younger women who had diabetes, well-managed or not, were more likely to have hearing loss than those unaffected by the illness, the study found.

Diabetes is known to affect the eyes, kidneys and other organs, Yaremchuk said. "Our study shows it can affect hearing as well."

In the study, presented recently at the Triological Society's annual meeting in Miami Beach, Fla., there was no link between hearing loss among men and diabetes, whether it was well-managed or not. Men are more likely in general to suffer from hearing loss than women, so the prevalence of the condition among males may mask diabetes' effect, the study suggested.

Men are exposed to more environmental causes of hearing loss, such as loud noise, either in the workplace or during leisure activities, such as attending large sporting events, explained Yaremchuk.

Managing diabetes properly should help prevent hearing loss or keep it from getting worse, Yaremchuk said.

What's unknown is if better management of diabetes can reverse hearing loss that's already occurred.

"We do not know if losing weight and improving control of diabetes will reverse the hearing loss that is seen. However, it will stop progression of the hearing loss," she said.

Recommendations call for diabetics' to have their vision checked every year, said Dr. Spyros Mezitis, a clinical endocrinologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

This latest finding suggests diabetics may also need to have their hearing tested, Mezitis said.

"This study will help make doctors more aware to ask about hearing, particularly in women between 60 and 75," said Mezitis, also an assistant professor of clinical medicine at New York Presbyterian Hospital-Cornell Medical Center.

About 26 million Americans have diabetes, mostly type 2, which is associated with obesity.

Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

To learn more about diabetes, visit U.S. National Institutes of Health.

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