Maternal Diabetes and Hearing

by Sam Malone

Mothers with diabetes can sometimes pass on inherited diabetes and deafness to their off springs. Diabetes is generally marked by persistently elevated blood sugar levels. High blood sugar levels as in case of diabetes can at times result in damage of the eyes, heart, kidneys and nerves. Although a rare condition, some people inherit diabetes from their mothers along with hearing loss. This form of diabetes is known as maternally inherited diabetes and deafness (MIDD).

A type of genetic defect, mutations in mitochondrial chromosomes have recently been found to be associated with different varieties of hearing impairments. Research has shown that a man's sperm contributes no mitochondrial DNA. This essentially means that a defect in a mitochondrial gene should lead to disease in both males and females, but it can only be transmitted through the mother.

Diabetes and hearing loss can occur together in a number of syndromes including diabetes insipidus, diabetes mellitus, optic atrophy and deafness, thiamine-responsive megaloblastic anemia and mitochondrial diabetes. Although the onset of diabetes can occur at any age, hearing loss may come relatively late. However, deafness in most case precedes diabetes. On an average, most people who have maternally inherited diabetes and deafness were young at the onset of diabetes and have a normal or low BMI.

Since hearing impairment has frequently been linked to an assortment of different mitochondrial defects, MIDD should be considered when diabetic people show the following characteristics:

  1. Hearing loss
  2. Onset at a relatively young age
  3. Normal to low body weight
  4. Characteristic eye findings known as macular pattern dystrophy.

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