What’s that? Speak up! Obesity makes you what?
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In addition to the numerous other health problems associated with obesity, it seems that hearing may also suffer when the waistline expands.
Data collected over a 20-year period from 68,000 female participants in the Harvard Nurses' Health Study showed that one in six of the women suffered hearing loss during that timeframe.
A higher degree of hearing problems was reported by those with higher BMI (Body Mass Index) than in women in the lower weight range.
Obese women (BMIs between 30 and 39) were 17 to 22 per cent more likely to have experienced hearing loss than those with BMIs less than 25. Extremely obese individuals (BMI over 40) were found to be 25 per cent more likely to suffer hearing loss than ‘normal-weight’ women.
A similar correlation was also found between larger waist circumference and hearing loss. The findings still held after researchers took into account other factors known to affect hearing such as smoking, medication and diet.
The researchers found that exercise appeared to lower the risk of hearing loss, with women who walked for four or more hours each week exhibiting a 15 per cent lower risk for hearing loss than those study participants who walked for less than an hour a week.
Although no cause and effect was found between obesity and hearing loss, the researchers did voice their theories.
‘The ear is highly metabolically active, so that means it's really dependent on having adequate blood supply. Obesity and factors that obesity brings on may compromise blood flow to the cochlea (the hearing chamber of the inner ear)’ said study author Dr Sharon Curhan.
Commenting on the findings, Dr Michael Weitzman, a professor of environmental medicine and paediatrics at New York University who previously reported a link between obese teenagers and hearing loss, said ‘This is intriguing to me, and it is worrisome. [The new study] supports what we found. I think there's a reason to begin to think that this is a problem that's associated with obesity. You might want obese kids or adults who have ... academic problems to have their hearing checked.’
Source: American Journal of Medicine
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