Hearing Loss in Women: BMI, Waist Circumference, Physical Activity

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Sharon Curhan, MD, ScM
Channing Division of Network Medicine
Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Harvard Medical School
Boston, MA 02115

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings of the study?

Dr. Curhan: The main findings of our study are that higher body mass index and larger waist circumference are associated with an increased risk of acquired hearing loss, and higher level of physical activity is associated with a decreased risk of acquired hearing loss in women. Specifically, after adjusting for potential confounders, compared with women with BMI <25 kg/m2, the relative risk for hearing loss was 25% higher for women with BMI >40. Compared with women with waist circumference <71 cm, the relative risk for hearing loss was 27% higher for women with waist circumference >88 cm. Higher physical activity was inversely related to risk; compared with women in the lowest quintile of physical activity, women in the highest quintile of physical activity had a 17% lower risk of hearing loss. Walking, the most common form of physical activity among these women, was associated with a lower risk; women who walked 2 hours per week or more had a 15% lower risk of hearing loss than women who walked less than one hour per week. These findings provide evidence that maintaining healthy weight and staying physically active, potentially modifiable lifestyle factors, may help reduce the risk of hearing loss.

MedicalResearch.com: Were any of the findings unexpected?

Dr. Curhan:  A common perception is that hearing loss is an inevitable part of the aging process. However, these findings illustrate that there may be potentially modifiable risk factors—that is, things that we can change in our diet and/or lifestyle in order to prevent hearing loss or delay its progression.

MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Curhan:  Acquired hearing loss is a very common and often disabling chronic condition. Although hearing loss is often considered to be an unavoidable companion to aging, there may be dietary and lifestyle factors that can be modified that may reduce the risk of age-related hearing loss. For example, maintaining healthy weight and staying physically active, potentially modifiable lifestyle factors, may help reduce the risk of hearing loss.

Hearing loss is often subtle in onset, yet can have a substantial adverse influence on communication, social connectivity, work productivity and health. If an individual notices a change in hearing or has concerns, it may be helpful to consult with a health care provider to consider an evaluation by a hearing specialist.

Citation:

Body Mass Index, Waist Circumference, Physical Activity, and Risk of Hearing Loss in Women

 Sharon G. Curhan, Roland Eavey, Molin Wang, Meir J. Stampfer, Gary C. Curhan

The American Journal of Medicine – 14 October 2013 (10.1016/j.amjmed.2013.04.026)