Hearing defects more common in children with type 1 diabetes, Australian researchers find

Jack Woodfield
Wed, 03 Feb 2016
Hearing defects more common in children with type 1 diabetes, Australian researchers find
Children with type 1 diabetes are more likely to have hearing defects than children without diabetes, according to new study findings.

Researchers at the University of Melbourne also noted that children with type 1 diabetes who tested within normal hearing thresholds still had this increased risk.

In the study, published in Diabetic Medicine, the Melbourne researchers highlighted that "hearing loss is a frequently reported consequence of type 1 diabetes".

They conducted an analysis on 19 Australian children with type 1 diabetes and matched healthy controls. The children were evaluated for sound detection, auditory neural function and binaural processing ability. Their functional hearing and general communication ability was also assessed.

The hearing levels of all children fell within normal clinical limits, but nine children with diabetes showed evidence of hearing defects. These included delayed neural conduction times, poorer speech reception thresholds and more self-reported listening difficulties.

Study author Gary Rance, PhD, MSc, University of Melbourne, explained: "Participants were not selected based on hearing history, yet more than half (53 per cent) showed performance levels outside age-related norms on speech perception and/or everyday listening measures.

"Where control listeners found that they struggled to understand conversational speech in < 10 per cent of everyday circumstances, children with type 1 diabetes typically reported difficulties in approximately twice as many situations, indicating particular hardship in noisy or reverberant environments such as classrooms, playgrounds and shopping precincts."

The researchers noted that these hearing defects could be serious enough to threaten academic progress, and hope these findings could impact future treatment for young children with type 1 diabetes.

"The findings suggest that functional hearing difficulties (i.e. impaired ability to understand speech in everyday listening circumstances) are relatively common in children with type 1 diabetes," Rance told Endocrine Today.

"As such, a hearing evaluation - including speech perception in background noise - may form an important part of the standard management regimen for children with the disease."

A limitation of this study, though, is its small size, and further studies will be necessary to validate these findings on a larger scale.
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