Diabetics May Be at Increased Risk of Hearing Loss

Association between diabetes and hearing loss independent of known risk factors

FRIDAY, June 20 (HealthDay News) -- Hearing loss is more prevalent among adult diabetics than among the non-diabetic population, according to the results of a study released online June 17 in advance of publication in the July 1 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Kathleen E. Bainbridge, Ph.D., of Social & Scientific Systems in Silver Spring, Md., and colleagues conducted a cross-sectional study using a random-sample of patients who self-reported diabetes history as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Hearing was assessed via audiometric testing in 5,140 adults aged 20 to 69 years. Impairment was assessed based on the pure tone average of thresholds over low- or mid-frequencies. Investigators did not distinguish between types of diabetes.

Some 21.3 percent of 399 adults with diabetes were found to have mild-to-severe low- to mid-frequency hearing loss, compared with 9.4 percent among the 4,741 non-diabetic adults, after adjusting for age. Prevalence of mild-to-severe high-frequency hearing impairment was 54.1 percent among diabetics, compared with 32 percent among those without diabetes. The association between diabetes and hearing loss was independent of known risk factors.

In an accompanying editorial, Keiko Hirose, M.D., of Washington University in St. Louis, observes, "On the basis of Bainbridge and colleagues' study, the American Diabetes Association could recommend that physicians include routine audiometry in the annual test battery for diabetic patients." However, Hirose cautions, the study has limitations; for example, it does not explore the link between severity of disease and degree of risk for hearing loss.

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