Incidence of hearing loss increases with age. Approximately one-third of people ages 65 to 74, and almost half of those 75 and older, suffer from some degree of hearing loss.
Contributing factors include genetic predisposition, exposure to noise, and the effects of diabetes and kidney disease.
Now a study published in the December 2013 issue of “The Journal of the American Medical Association” has found that an enlarged waist and high body mass index are also linked to greater risk of hearing loss.
Body mass index (BMI), a ratio of a person’s weight to height, is often used to indicate if a person is overweight or obese.
For instance, a BMI between 25 and 30 is consistent with being overweight, and anything over 30 is considered obesity.
Data from a 20-year longitudinal study of more than 68,000 women indicated that those with a BMI in the overweight range had an 8 percent higher risk for hearing loss — and the risk increased further as BMI went up.
Subjects with a BMI above 40 had a 19 percent greater risk for hearing loss.
Such associations may be caused by impaired blood flow to the inner ear, which can be improved through moderate exercise.
Although we can’t reverse aging or remove a genetic predisposition to hearing loss, we do have control over how much we exercise, which is good news to hear.
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