The World Health Organization estimates that 360 million people have disabling hearing loss, a condition that is often considered to be an unavoidable side effect of aging. Sharon Curhan, from Brigham and Women's Hospital (Massachusetts, USA), and colleagues analyzed data collected from 68,421 women enrolled in the Nurses' Health Study II who were followed from 1989 to 2009. Researchers analyzed information on body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, physical activity, and self-reported hearing loss. The baseline and updated information was obtained through validated biennial questionnaires. The team found that women with a BMI of 30-34 had a relative risk for hearing loss that was 17% higher, and with a BMI of 40 or more had a relative risk that was 25% higher, as compared with those with a BMI of less than 25. For women with waist circumference 80-88 cm, the relative risk for hearing loss was 11% higher and with waist circumference greater than 88 cm the relative risk was 27% higher, as compared with women with waist circumference less than 71 cm. Finally, the data revealed that a higher level of physical activity associated with lower risk for hearing loss. Compared with women who were the least physically active, women who were the most physically active had a 17% 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^ lower risk of hearing loss, as compared with walking less than one hour per week. The study authors conclude that: “These findings provide evidence that maintaining healthy weight and staying physically active, potentially modifiable lifestyle factors, may help reduce the risk of hearing loss.”
Curhan SG, Eavey R, Wang M, Stampfer MJ, Curhan GC. “Body mass index, waist circumference, physical activity, and risk of hearing loss in women.” Am J Med. 2013 Dec;126(12):1142.e1-8.
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