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Obesity is associated with sensorineural hearing loss in adolescents

Authors

  • Anil K. Lalwani MD,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, New York, U.S.A
    • Send correspondence to Anil K. Lalwani, MD, Division of Otology, Neurotology, & Skull Base Surgery, Department of Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, 180 Fort Washington Avenue, Harkness Pavilion, HP818, New York, NY 10032. E-mail: anil.lalwani@columbia.edu

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  • Karin Katz MD,

    1. Department of Pediatrics, New York University Langone Medical Center, New York, New York, U.S.A
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  • Ying-Hua Liu MD, PhD,

    1. Department of Pediatrics, New York University Langone Medical Center, New York, New York, U.S.A
    2. Department Environmental Medicine, New York University Langone Medical Center, New York, New York, U.S.A
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  • Sarah Kim BA,

    1. Department of Pediatrics, New York University Langone Medical Center, New York, New York, U.S.A
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  • Michael Weitzman MD

    1. Department of Pediatrics, New York University Langone Medical Center, New York, New York, U.S.A
    2. Department Environmental Medicine, New York University Langone Medical Center, New York, New York, U.S.A
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  • Presented at the Annual Meeting of The Triological Society, San Diego, CA, April 20–21, 2012.

  • The authors have no funding, financial relationships, or conflicts of interest to disclose.

Abstract

Objectives/Hypothesis

Childhood obesity, defined as body mass index (BMI) ≥ 95%, is a significant health problem associated with a variety of disorders, and in adults it has been found to be a risk factor for hearing loss. We investigated the hypothesis that obese children are at increased risk of sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL).

Study Design

A complex, multistage, stratified geographic area design for collecting representative data from noninstitutionalized U.S. population.

Methods

Relevant cross-sectional data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2005 to 2006, for 1,488 participants 12 to 19 years of age was examined. Subjects were classified as obese if their BMI ≥ 95th percentile. SNHL was defined as average pure-tone level greater than 15 dB for 0.5, 1, and 2 kHz (low frequency) and 3, 4, 6, and 8 kHz (high frequency).

Results

Compared to normal weight participants (BMI 5%–85%), obesity in adolescents was associated with elevated pure tone hearing thresholds and greater prevalence of unilateral low-frequency SNHL (15.2 vs. 8.3%, P = 0.01). In multivariate analyses, obesity was associated with a 1.85 fold increase in the odds of unilateral low-frequency SNHL (95% CI: 1.10–3.13) after controlling for multiple hearing-related covariates.

Conclusions

We demonstrate for the first time that obesity in childhood is associated with higher hearing thresholds across all frequencies and an almost 2-fold increase in the odds of unilateral low-frequency hearing loss. These results add to the growing literature on obesity-related health disturbances and also add to the urgency in instituting public health measures to reduce it.

Level of Evidence

2b. Laryngoscope, 123:3178–3184, 2013

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