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June 17, 2006

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Question from Illinois, USA:

My six year old son has type 1 diabetes. He was diagnosed at one. My husband and I have noticed in the past few months that he is having problems hearing. We have an appointment with the endocrinologist in two weeks and plan on asking him, but I was looking for information to see if this could be associated with diabetes.

Answer:

I am not aware of a distinct association (cause and effect) of type 1 diabetes and hearing loss. Some individuals with type 1 diabetes also have concurrent underactivity of the thyroid gland, which can be associated with diminished hearing.

There are a couple of RARE, inherited conditions associated with type 1 diabetes and deafness. One is called Wolfram syndrome, but it is also associated with another serious disorder of the pituitary gland leading to excess urination and thirst and is also associated with regression (atrophy) of the eye nerves.

First things first: have the child formally tested for hearing loss and if there is decreased hearing, it needs to be categorized as either “sensorineural” (meaning something wrong with the auditory nerve) or “conductive” (meaning something inhibiting the transmission of sound). Then, you’ll go from there. Let us know what you learn.

DS