Obesity is associated with sensorineural hearing loss in adolescents

Anil K. Lalwani, Karin Katz, Ying Hua Liu, Sarah Kim, Michael Weitzman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives/Hypothesis: Childhood obesity, defined as body mass index (BMI) ≥ 95%, is a significant health problem associated with a variety of disorders, and in adults it has been found to be a risk factor for hearing loss. We investigated the hypothesis that obese children are at increased risk of sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL). Study Design: A complex, multistage, stratified geographic area design for collecting representative data from noninstitutionalized U.S. population. Methods: Relevant cross-sectional data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2005 to 2006, for 1,488 participants 12 to 19 years of age was examined. Subjects were classified as obese if their BMI ≥ 95th percentile. SNHL was defined as average pure-tone level greater than 15 dB for 0.5, 1, and 2 kHz (low frequency) and 3, 4, 6, and 8 kHz (high frequency). Results: Compared to normal weight participants (BMI 5%-85%), obesity in adolescents was associated with elevated pure tone hearing thresholds and greater prevalence of unilateral low-frequency SNHL (15.2 vs. 8.3%, P = 0.01). In multivariate analyses, obesity was associated with a 1.85 fold increase in the odds of unilateral low-frequency SNHL (95% CI: 1.10-3.13) after controlling for multiple hearing-related covariates. Conclusions: We demonstrate for the first time that obesity in childhood is associated with higher hearing thresholds across all frequencies and an almost 2-fold increase in the odds of unilateral low-frequency hearing loss. These results add to the growing literature on obesity-related health disturbances and also add to the urgency in instituting public health measures to reduce it.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3178-3184
Number of pages7
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2013


  • National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES)
  • Obesity
  • sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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