The heavier women are, the higher their risk of hearing loss compared to women of normal weight. This surprising finding stems from the long-running Nurses’ Health Study II that, along with other health parameters, tracked physical activity, body mass index (BMI), waist circumference and hearing loss among 68,000 women from 1989 to 2009. On the positive side, the researchers from Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that the more physically active the women in the study were, the lower their risk of hearing loss. The researchers reported that women who had a BMI indicating obesity had a 17 percent higher risk of hearing loss than women whose BMI was lower than 25, indicating normal weight. Women with a BMI of 40 or more had a 25 percent higher risk of hearing loss than normal weight women, the study showed. As far as exercise is concerned, the most physically active women had a 17 percent lower risk of hearing loss than the least physically active women. The study found that walking two hours or more per week lowered the risk of hearing loss risk by 15 percent compared to walking less than an hour a week. The results were published in the December 2013 issue of the American Journal of Medicine.
My take? Obesity increases the risk of illness and death due to diabetes, stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and kidney and gallbladder disease; it may also increase the risk for some types of cancer and is a primary risk factor for the development of osteoarthritis and sleep apnea. And now it appears that obesity may also increase the risk of hearing loss. Earlier research from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons found that obese teenagers have a nearly twice the risk of one-sided low frequency hearing loss, compared to normal weight teens. Here, the researchers suggested that this accelerated hearing loss might be associated with inflammation stemming from obesity. Clearly, as the news about hearing loss attests, the list of health risks presented by obesity continues to grow.
Anil K. Lalwani et al, “Obesity is associated with sensorineural hearing loss in adolescents,” The Laryngoscope, DOI: 10.1002/lary.24244