Children with juvenile-onset diabetes may experience damage to the vasculatureand the inner structure of the ear. Earlier studies had suggested that diabetescan cause hearing loss. No previous study, however, had measured and trackedthe changes in the anatomy of the cochlea—the deep-seated spiral structurewhere sound is turned into nerve impulses—in patients with type 1 diabetes.
In the recent study, researchers tested skull bones at autopsy from patients withtype 1 diabetes and compared them with similar bones obtained from patientswithout diabetes. The patients with juvenile diabetes had a major thickening of thewall of the blood vessels supplying the cochlear region. The results of the studyalso showed significantly greater loss of outer "hair cells," which detect soundwaves. Other structures were more shrunken as well. (The findings were reportedrecently in Otolaryngology—Head & Neck Surgery.)