In the Journals

Functional hearing difficulties common in children with type 1 diabetes

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February 2, 2016

Children with type 1 diabetes are more likely to have auditory processing disorder than children without diabetes, despite testing within normal hearing thresholds, according to research in Diabetic Medicine.

In an analysis of Australian children with type 1 diabetes and matched healthy controls, researchers found that children with diabetes had significantly delayed neural conduction times (interpeak latencies), poorer speech reception thresholds and more self-reported listening difficulties, although average hearing levels fell within normal limits for all participants.

“Participants were not selected based on hearing history, yet more than half (53%) showed performance levels outside age-related norms on speech perception and/or everyday listening measures,” Gary Rance, PhD, MSc, of the department of audiology and speech pathology at the University of Melbourne, and colleagues wrote. “These results suggest that hearing evaluation may form an important part of the standard management regimen for children with the disease.”

Gary Rance

Gary Rance

Researchers analyzed data from 19 children with type 1 diabetes (seven girls; mean age, 13 years; 10 using multiple daily insulin injections), and a cohort of age and sex-matched matched controls who did not have diabetes. All participants underwent electroacoustic, electrophysiological and behavioral tests to evaluate cochlear and auditory neural function.

Hearing levels fell within normal clinical limits for all participants; however, nine children in the diabetes group showed evidence of auditory pathway abnormality, with evoked potential latencies or amplitudes beyond age-related norms.

Among children with diabetes, auditory brainstem response interpeak latencies (wave I–V) were longer when compared with controls (P < .001) and wave V amplitudes were reduced (P = .02).

When target speech and background noise were presented from different directions, children with diabetes had higher speech reception thresholds vs. controls (P = .002). Children showing the greatest degree of neural disruption also presented with the most affected speech understanding (r = 0.662; P = .003), according to researchers.

Children with diabetes also self-reported more difficulty in everyday listening and communication vs. controls (P = .04).

“Where control listeners found that they struggled to understand conversational speech in < 10% of everyday circumstances, children with type 1 diabetes typically reported difficulties in approximately twice as many situations, indicating particular hardship in noisy or reverberant environments such as classrooms, playgrounds and shopping precincts,” the researchers wrote.

“The findings suggest that functional hearing difficulties (i.e. impaired ability to understand speech in everyday listening circumstances) are relatively common in children with type 1 diabetes,” Rance told Endocrine Today. “As such, a hearing evaluation — including speech perception in background noise — may form an important part of the standard management regimen for children with the disease.” – by Regina Schaffer

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.