Hearing Sensitivity in Older Adults: Associations with Cardiovascular Risk Factors in the Health, Aging and Body Composition Study


Address correspondence to Elizabeth P. Helzner, 450 Clarkson Avenue, Box 43, Brooklyn, NY 11203. E-mail: Elizabeth.Helzner@downstate.edu


OBJECTIVES: To examine the association between cardiovascular disease (CVD) and its risk factors and age-associated hearing loss in a cohort of older black and white adults.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional cohort study.

SETTING: The Health, Aging, and Body Composition (Health ABC) Study, a community-based cohort study of older adults from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Memphis, Tennessee.

PARTICIPANTS: Two thousand forty-nine well-functioning adults (mean age 77.5; 37% black).

MEASUREMENTS: Pure-tone audiometry measurement and history of clinical CVD were obtained at the fourth annual follow-up visit. Pure-tone averages in decibels reflecting low (250, 500, and 1,000 Hz), middle (500, 1,000, and 2,000 Hz), and high (2,000, 4,000, and 8,000 Hz) frequencies were calculated for each ear. CVD risk factors, aortic pulse-wave velocity (PWV), and ankle–arm index (AAI) were obtained at study baseline.

RESULTS: In sex-stratified models, after adjustment for age, race, study site, and occupational noise exposure, risk factors associated with poorer hearing sensitivity in men included high triglyceride levels, high resting heart rate, and history of smoking. In women, poor hearing sensitivity was associated with high body mass index, high resting heart rate, fast PWV, and low AAI.

CONCLUSION: Modifiable risk factors for CVD may play a role in the development of age-related hearing loss.