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Adolescent Obesity Linked to Hearing Loss

by Alexandra Kilpatrick

Obese teenagers could be at a higher risk for hearing loss, according to a recent study published in The Laryngoscope.

The recent Columbia University Medical Center study used data on 1488 subjects, aged 12 to 19 years, from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2005 to 2006, to evaluate the association between hearing loss and obesity in children, following previous research that indicated a link in adults.

Researchers found that obese subjects were more likely to experience hearing loss across all frequencies than those who were not obese. Making sure to control for other risk factors, researchers found that the odds of one-sided low-frequency hearing loss were 1.85 greater in obese adolescents than in non-obese adolescents.

"Because previous research found that 80 percent of adolescents with hearing loss were unaware of having hearing difficulty, adolescents with obesity should receive regular hearing screening so they can be treated appropriately to avoid cognitive and behavioral issues," said study researcher Dr. Anil K. Lalwani, M.D., a professor and vice chair for research of Columbia's Department of Otalaryngology and Head & Neck Surgery, in a statement.

Researchers found that while 7.89 percent of non-obese adolescents experienced low-frequency hearing loss, 15.16 percent of obese teens suffered from the condition. Those without hearing loss tend to hear sound frequencies ranging from 20 Hertz (Hz) to 20,000 Hz, but people with low-frequency hearing loss cannot hear frequencies below 2,000 Hz.

A Growing Concern

Although researchers do not know exactly why obesity influences hearing loss risk, they speculated that obesity-related inflammation could directly affect hearing loss. Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, both associated with obesity, are known to be linked with hearing loss and could indirectly cause hearing loss.

Hearing loss is now simply one of many health concerns linked to obesity. Many of the obese subjects in the study were unaware of their hearing loss. This finding prompted researchers to recommend future research, focusing on how obesity-related hearing loss affects behavior.

Additionally, given the high prevalence of obesity and the numerous obesity-caused health issues including hearing loss, researchers believe that more public health measures are necessary to address the national obesity epidemic.

Obesity is not the only national health issue to be addressed after this study's results. More than 48 million Americans currently suffer from hearing loss in at least one ear, according to a 2011 study in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine. In a 2010 Harvard study, researchers discovered that one in five adolescents have slight hearing loss.

If you or someone you know would like to learn more about your potential for hearing loss, or would like to take steps to correct your hearing ailments, please contact us today. We will help you set up a consultation with your ideal hearing loss clinic in an area near you.

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