Having diabetes may cause women to experience a greater degree of hearing loss as they age, especially if the metabolic disorder is not well controlled with medication, according to a new study from Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.   Women between the ages of 60 and 75 with well-controlled diabetes had better hearing than women with poorly controlled diabetes, with similar hearing levels to those of non-diabetic women of the same age.The study also shows significantly worse hearing in all women younger than 60 with diabetes, even if it is well controlled.

Men, however, had worse hearing loss across the board compared to women in the study, regardless of their age or whether or not they had diabetes.  For the men in the study, there was no significant difference in hearing between those with diabetes that was well-controlled or poorly controlled, as well as those who did not have diabetes.   “Younger males in general have worse hearing, enough so to possibly mask any impact diabetes may have on hearing. But our findings really call for future research to determine the possible role gender plays in hearing loss,” says Dr. Handzo.

“A certain degree of hearing loss is a normal part of the aging process for all of us, but it is often accelerated in patients with diabetes, especially if blood-glucose levels are not being controlled with medication and diet,” says Derek J. Handzo, D.O., with the Department of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery at Henry Ford.  “Our study really points to importance of patients controlling their diabetes, especially as they age, based on the impact it may have on hearing loss.”

According to the American Diabetes Association, nearly 26 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, and another 34.5 million have some degree of hearing loss. Signs of hearing loss include difficulty hearing background noises or hearing conversations in large groups, as well as regularly needing to turn up the volume on a radio or TV.

These results have been presented at a conference and not yet published in a peer reviewed journal, so they should be considered preliminary data.

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May I ask a question? If someone was only 18 years old and she felt that her hearing ability degrading, could that be an early symptom of diabetes? Thanks. Your answer will help a lot :) EDITOR: Don't know, best to see a doctor about it.

Most hearing loss from diabetes will not be severe enough to warrant cochlear implants, and is usually managed by fitting hearing aids to the patient. Hearing loss is not usually an early symptom of diabetes, though you should be tested and your hearing specialist will be able to determine if the loss is a middle ear or cochlear based loss.

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