Obesity, Large Waist Linked to Hearing Loss for
Women; Physical Activity Lowers Risk
Study raises questions about hearing loss being
associated only with aging
Nov. 25, 2013 – If women need another reason to
maintain a smaller waist and a lower body mass index (BMI), new research
has it for them. A study from Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) finds
that a higher BMI and larger waist circumference are each associated
with higher risk of hearing loss, but, a higher level of physical
activity is associated with lower risk of hearing loss in women.
According to the World Health Organization,
360 million people have
disabling hearing loss, a condition that is often considered to be an
unavoidable side effect of aging
"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 BWH.
Using data from 68,421 women in the Nurses' Health
Study II, who were followed from 1989 to 2009, researchers analyzed
information on BMI, waist circumference, physical activity, and
self-reported hearing loss. The baseline and updated information was
obtained through validated biennial questionnaires.
Researchers found that women with a
BMI of 30-34 had a
relative risk for hearing loss that was 17 percent higher, and with a
BMI of 40 or more had a relative risk that was 25 percent higher, when
compared with those with a BMI of less than 25.
For women with waist circumference 31.5 to 34.65
inches, the relative risk for hearing loss was 11 percent higher and
with waist circumference greater than 34.65 inches the relative risk was
27 percent higher when compared with women with waist circumference less
than 28 inches.
Physical Activity Lowers Risk
Researchers also found that higher level of
physical activity was associated with lower risk. Compared with women
who were the least physically active, women who were the most physically
active had a 17 percent lower risk of hearing loss.
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 percent lower
risk of hearing loss, compared with walking less than one hour per week.
This research is published online in
The American Journal of Medicine.
It was funded by grants DC010811 and CA50385 from the National
Institutes of Health and from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
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