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Children with juvenile-onset diabetes may experience damage to the vasculature and the inner structure of the ear. Earlier studies had suggested that diabetes can cause hearing loss. No previous study, however, had measured and tracked the changes in the anatomy of the cochleathe deep-seated spiral structure where sound is turned into nerve impulsesin patients with type 1 diabetes.
In the recent study, researchers tested skull bones at autopsy from patients with type 1 diabetes and compared them with similar bones obtained from patients without diabetes. The patients with juvenile diabetes had a major thickening of the wall of the blood vessels supplying the cochlear region. The results of the study also showed significantly greater loss of outer "hair cells," which detect sound waves. Other structures were more shrunken as well. (The findings were reported recently in OtolaryngologyHead & Neck Surgery.)