Hearing loss has long been associated with diabetes mellitus. Microangiopathy, associated with thickening of the basement membranes of small vessels, has been implicated as a major source of multiple system organ disease.
Objective This study was designed to evaluate changes in basement membrane thickness in the inner ear of laboratory animals suffering from non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) with, and without, exposure to moderate intensity noise exposure in an attempt to extrapolate the same disease process in humans.
Design Spontaneously hypertensive-corpulent non-insulin-dependent rats (SHR/N-cp) were selected as a genetic model for the above study. Both lean and obese rats were used in this study. A genetically similar control group of animals (LA/N-cp) were used as controls. These animals express both the lean and obese phenotypes, but they lack the NIDDM gene. Forty-eight animals in each group were sacrificed at the end of the study. The cochleas were dissected and fixed. The basement membrane of the stria vascularis was examined using transmission electron microscopy.
Setting This study was a laboratory-based, standard animal study.
Main outcome This study was designed to show microangiography of the inner ear as related to NIDDM with, and without, obesity and noise exposure.
Results/Conclusions NIDDM alone does not cause statistically significant basement membrane thickening; however, NIDDM in combination with obesity and/or noise exposure did show significant thickening and the combination of all three showed the greatest thickening. NIDDM appeared to be the greatest contributing factor.