Type 1 diabetes, also known as insulin-dependent or juvenile diabetes, is an auto-immune disease that causes a person’s pancreas to stop producing insulin. Insulin is the hormone that enables people to get energy from food. This disease can’t be prevented, and can’t be cured once you have it. Every year in the United States, more than 15,000 children are diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.
We know that in adults, diabetes can have an effect on their hearing, but what about in children? Several doctors in Chennai, India decided to tackle this very topic, and the results were quite convincing.
Diabetes and Hearing Loss Study
In the study, 62 children with Type 1 diabetes were studied against 62 children without diabetes, matched for age and sex. Both groups were given air and bone conduction tests to assess their level of hearing, while other factors were controlled.
The Diabetes-Hearing Loss Connection In Children
The results were unfortunate, but convincing. Twenty percent of children with diabetes suffered some degree of hearing loss. The hearing loss occurred across all frequencies, but was seen the most at middle and high frequencies. The longer a child had been living with diabetes, and the less regulated his or her blood sugar, the worse the hearing loss.
High Blood Sugar Affects Hearing The Most
Interestingly, this study found that other risk factors associated with diabetes were not correlated to hearing loss. Hypoglycemia, neuropathy, retinopathy and thyroid dysfunction did not show any correlation to hearing loss. What the study found to be strongly related was hearing loss and poor glycemic control. Those children who did not have good control over their blood sugar had higher incidences of hearing loss, and their hearing loss was more severe.
Managing Blood Sugar Can Stabilize Hearing Loss
The good news is that the children who had poor blood sugar control, and subsequent hearing loss, were given treatment to manage their blood sugar better. Once their blood sugar stabilized, their hearing did not get worse. While good glycemic control didn’t reverse the hearing loss, indicating that that hearing loss was likely permanent, the hearing loss did not get any worse.
Hearing Loss Can Start Young
The study also found that the longer a child was living with diabetes, the more likely it was that he or she would develop hearing loss. For a child with diabetes, hearing loss can start to occur quite young – anywhere from 5-7 years of age.
Visit a Pediatric Audiologist
Given the young age at which a child with diabetes can develop hearing loss, and the fact that any such hearing loss is likely to be permanent, it is imperative that any child with diabetes is also seen regularly by a pediatric audiologist to ensure that their hearing is monitored and cared for just as their blood sugar is. The two go hand-in-hand, and both will affect a child’s life forever.