Excuse me? Didn’t quite catch that. Yes – it’s correct that obesity and hearing loss are together in the title of this post, as it seems that obesity is an emerging risk factor for hearing impairment.
A recent study looked at over 68,000 women enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study between 1989 and 2009, and found that just over 11,000 cases of hearing impairment were reported. They found that for women with a Body Mass Index of 40 or higher, there was a 25% increased risk of developing hearing impairment, compared to women with a BMI under 25. A larger waist was also associated with a higher risk of hearing loss.
Interestingly, higher physical activity was associated with a lower risk of hearing impairment.
How can this be? It is possible that in states of obesity or poorer metabolic health, some of the ‘bad’ or ‘inflammatory’ chemicals that are produced by the unhealthy metabolic fat that collects around our organs may damage the nerve cells in the ear. In medical terms, this includes oxidative stress and the formation of reactive species. Hardening of the arteries probably also plays a role – just like atherosclerosis manifests as narrowing of the arteries in the heart and brain, the small arterioles become hardened as well and can compromise blood supply to our hearing apparatus.
One more health concern to add to the list of possible concerns associated with carrying excess body weight.
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