Cardiovascular Risk Factors Linked to Hearing Impairment

Cardiovascular antecedents of hearing impairment can be detected in middle age

FRIDAY, Feb. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Cardiovascular risk factors may play an important role in age-related hearing dysfunction, a common condition in middle-aged adults, according to a study published online Feb. 21 in the Archives of Otolaryngology -- Head & Neck Surgery.

Scott D. Nash, of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison, and colleagues investigated the prevalence of hearing impairment and its environmental and cardiovascular risk factors among middle-aged adults. As part of a larger epidemiological cohort study on aging, the researchers evaluated hearing and collected information on behaviors, environmental factors, and medical history in 3,285 participants aged 21 to 84 (mean, 49) years. Hearing was measured using pure-tone and speech audiometry (word recognition in competing message [WRCM]).

The researchers found that the overall prevalence of hearing impairment was 14.1 percent, and the average WRCM score was 63.5 percent. After controlling for confounders, including age, sex, education, and occupational noise, a history of ear surgery, a larger central retinal venular equivalent (a microvascular measure), and a higher hematocrit percentage were independently correlated with hearing impairment (odds ratios, 4.11, 1.77, and 0.77 respectively). Similar factors were associated with lower WRCM scores, including mean intima-media thickness (a macrovascular measure) and statin use.

"These results suggest that there may be cardiovascular antecedents of hearing impairment, as measured by pure-tone or speech audiometry, which are detectable even in middle age," the authors write. "Identifying possible modifiable risk factors may allow early interventions to delay the onset of hearing impairment."

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