`Diabetes impairs hearing too’

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Diabetes may impair hearing ability by damaging the auditory system, according to new research which suggests that doctors should do a hearing test in managing type 2 diabetes.

“An association between diabetes and hearing impairment in humans has been shown in many, but not all, studies,” said Elizabeth Helzner from SUNY Downstate Medical Centre in the US.

“Direct comparison of these studies is complicated due to a lack of consistency in defining hearing impairment and other factors,” said Helzner.

“However, the association between diabetes and hearing impairment tends to be stronger in studies that included younger participants, perhaps because in older samples, other causes of age-related hearing impairment may mask the contribution of diabetes,” she added.

This factor in itself lends weight to the notion that type 2 diabetes can damage hearing, researchers said. They added that well-designed longitudinal studies are necessary in order to explore whether patients with diabetes are at increased risk of early-onset hearing impairment.

Researchers said studies should also explore whether the progression of hearing impairment varies based on diabetes status, as well as disease management factors, after taking other known contributors into account.

Hearing impairment has been associated with social isolation and depression, cognitive decline and incident dementia, a higher propensity for falls and hospitalisations, and increased mortality, researchers said.