Obese adolescents are more likely than their normal-weight counterparts to have
hearing loss, across all frequencies, U.S. researchers say.
Lead author Dr. Anil K. Lalwani, a professor and vice chair for research of the
Department of Otolaryngology/Head & Neck Surgery, Columbia University Medical
Center in New York, said obesity in adolescents was associated with
sensorineural hearing loss across all frequencies, or the frequency range that
can be heard by humans.
Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by damage to the inner-ear hair cells,
The study, published in The Laryngoscope, found the highest rates were for
low-frequency hearing loss -- 15.16 percent of obese adolescents compared with
7.89 percent of non-obese adolescents.
People with low-frequency hearing loss cannot hear sounds in frequencies 2,000
hertz and lower; they may still hear sounds in the higher frequencies -- normal
hearing range is from 20 hertz to 20,000 hertz. Often they can still understand
human speech well, but may have difficulty hearing in groups or in noisy places,
"These results have several important public health implications," Lalwani, also
an otolaryngologist at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical
Center, said in a statement.
"Because previous research found that 80 percent of adolescents with hearing
loss were unaware of having hearing difficulty, adolescents with obesity should
receive regular hearing screening so they can be treated appropriately to avoid
cognitive and behavioral issues."