03 February 2014

Hearing loss may also be associated with obesity in women

Researchers have discovered that women with a higher body mass index (BMI) and a larger waist circumference are more likely to suffer from a higher risk of hearing loss.

Women with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 to 34 have a 17% higher relative risk of hearing loss and with a BMI of 40 or more, that risk is 25% higher when compared to those with a BMI of less than 25, a study has found.

Furthermore, the researchers also found that for women with a waist circumference of 80 to 88cm, the relative risk of hearing loss was 11% higher and with a waist circumference that was even greater, the risk was 27% higher when compared with women with a waist circumference of less than 71cm.

"We often think of hearing loss as an inevitable part of the aging process, but these findings provide evidence that potentially modifiable risk factors, such as maintaining a healthy weight and staying physically active, may help in the prevention of hearing loss or delay its progression," said Sharon Curhan, MD, ScM, lead author of the paper and a researcher in the Channing Division of Network Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) in the US.

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Physical activity lowers the risk

What may be more interesting is the fact that increased physical activity, according to the survey, seemed to lower the risk of hearing loss.

Women who were most physically active had a 17% lower risk of hearing loss compared with women who were least physically active.

Walking, which was the most common form of physical activity reported among these women, was associated with lower risk; walking 2 hours per week or more was associated with a 15% lower risk of hearing loss, compared with walking less than one hour per week.

Hearing loss is still a natural part of aging, but the study found that a healthy diet and physical exercise may lower the risk of hearing loss.

Nearly 70,000 women followed

The researchers used data from 68,421 women in the ”Nurses' Health Study II”, who were followed from 1989 to 2009. The researchers analysed information on BMI, waist circumference, physical activity and self-reported hearing loss. The baseline and updated information were obtained through validated biennial questionnaires.

The findings were published in The American Journal of Medicine.


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