Detroit – A new study from Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit shows that women between the ages of 60 and 75 with well-controlled diabetes had better hearing than women with poorly controlled diabetes. The study also shows significantly worse hearing in all women younger than 60 with diabetes, even if it is well controlled.

In addition, the study showed that men had worse hearing loss across the board compared to women, regardless of their age or whether they had diabetes.

“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, DO, with the Department of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery at Henry Ford, in the press release.

While the association between diabetes and hearing loss has previously been studied, Henry Ford researchers sought to learn more about hearing differences among patients with well-controlled diabetes, poorly controlled diabetes, and those who do not have diabetes.

The Henry Ford research team reviewed records for 990 patients whot had audiograms performed between 2000 and 2008 at the hospital. Patients were categorized by gender, age (younger than 60 years old, between 60 and 75 years old, and older than 75 years old), and if they had diabetes. Those with diabetes were divided into two groups: well-controlled or poorly controlled, as determined by the American Diabetes Association guidelines that use HbA1C blood levels.

Dr Handzo notes that previous studies about diabetes and hearing loss have not focused on blood-glucose levels, nor did they include such a diverse population based on age and gender.

The Henry Ford team looked at patients’ pure tone average and speech recognition at different ages. The team evaluated pure tone average ranges that focus on the frequency at which most people speak and the very high frequencies used in music and alarms.

The team found that women between the ages of 60 and 75 with poorly controlled diabetes had significantly worse hearing than those whose diabetes was well-controlled and the control group. Among the women younger than 60, those with diabetes, regardless of whether it was being controlled, had worse hearing than non-diabetic women.

As 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.

Dr Handzo suggested that the younger males, in general, have worse hearing, which may possibly mask any impact diabetes may have on male hearing loss. "Our findings really call for future research to determine the possible role gender plays in hearing loss,” Handzo commented.

SOURCE: Henry Ford Hospital