THURSDAY, June 20 (HealthDay News) -- In addition to the
well-known health risks of being overweight, a new study finds that
obese teens may be at increased risk for hearing loss.
For the study, researchers analyzed data from nearly 1,500
adolescents, aged 12 to 19, who took part in the 2005 to 2006 U.S.
National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Obese adolescents
had greater hearing loss across all frequencies and were nearly
twice as likely to have one-sided, low-frequency hearing loss,
compared to their normal-weight peers.
The study was released online June 17 in advance of publication
in an upcoming issue of the journal
"This is the first paper to show that obesity is associated with
hearing loss in adolescents," study first author Dr. Anil Lalwani,
a professor and vice chairman for research in the department of
otolaryngology/head & neck surgery at Columbia University
Medical Center, said in a Columbia news release.
He and his colleagues theorized that obesity-caused inflammation
may contribute to hearing loss. Nearly 17 percent of U.S. teens are
"These results have several important public health
implications," Lalwani said. "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
[brain] and behavioral issues."
The nearly twofold increased risk of one-sided, low-frequency
hearing loss in obese teens is particularly concerning because it
suggests early, and possibly ongoing, injury to the inner ear that
could progress as obese teens become obese adults, the researchers
said in the news release.
Further research is needed to determine how hearing loss in
obese teens affects their social development, school performance,
behavior and thinking skills.
"Furthermore, hearing loss should be added to the growing list
of the negative health consequences of obesity that affect both
children and adults -- adding to the impetus to reduce obesity
among people of all ages," Lalwani said.
Although the study found an association between obesity and
hearing loss in teens, it did not prove a cause-and-effect
The Nemours Foundation has more about
overweight and obesity in children.