OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the effects of diabetes on cochlear elements in human beings. STUDY DESIGN AND SETTING: Twenty-six temporal bones (mean age, 37.5 years) with type 1 diabetes and 30 age-matched controls were examined by light microscopy. We compared the findings of cochlear vessels, hair cells, spiral ganglion cells, and cochlear lateral walls. RESULTS: In diabetics, the walls of vessels of the basilar membrane (P < 0.001) and vessels of the stria vascularis were (P < 0.01) significantly thicker in all turns and loss of outer hair cells (OHCs) was significantly greater in the lower basal turn (P < 0.01). Atrophy of the stria vascularis in all turns (P < 0.0001) and loss of spiral ligament cells in upper turns (P < 0.01) were significantly higher than controls. No significant difference was obtained in the number of spiral ganglion cells between groups. CONCLUSION: This study suggests that type 1 diabetes mellitus can cause cochlear microangiopathy and subsequently degeneration of cochlear lateral walls and OHCs.