Inflammation could be the reason that obese adolescents are more likely than their normal-weight counterparts to suffer hearing loss, say researchers from Columbia University Medical Center.
Their study found that obesity in adolescents is associated with hearing loss across all frequencies. The highest rates were for low-frequency hearing loss - 15 percent of obese adolescents compared with 8 percent of non-obese adolescents. People with low-frequency hearing loss cannot hear sounds in frequencies 2,000 Hz and below; often they can still understand human speech well, but may have difficulty hearing in groups or in noisy places.
Although the overall hearing loss among obese adolescents was relatively mild, the almost 2-fold increase in the odds of low-frequency hearing loss is particularly worrisome, said researcher Anil K. Lalwani. "It suggests early, and possibly ongoing, injury to the inner ear that could progress as the obese adolescent becomes an obese adult."
Additional research is needed to determine the mechanisms involved, but Lalwani theorizes that obesity-induced inflammation may be the culprit. "Low plasma levels of the anti-inflammatory protein adiponectin, which is secreted from adipose tissue, have been found in obese children, and low levels in obese adults have been associated with high-frequency hearing loss," he explained.
He adds that the results have important public health implications as other research showed that 80 percent of adolescents with hearing loss were unaware of having any hearing difficulty.
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Source: Columbia University Medical Center