Posted on Monday, December 15, 2014

Hearing Loss Linked to Obesity in Adolescents

two audiologist discuss hearing loss and obesity in adolescents.

There has been a thirty percent increase in hearing loss among adolescents over the past twenty years. Though the majority of the blame has fallen on the widespread use of MP3 players and earbuds, there now appears to be a new suspect in this dramatic increase in hearing loss among adolescents—obesity.

There are many different health risks associated with childhood obesity and now that list can be extended to include hearing loss. A recent study published in The Laryngoscope indicates that obese adolescents are more likely than their thinner classmates to have sensorineural hearing loss. This rise in hearing loss accompanies a similar rise in obesity among adolescents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2010. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to 18% over the same period.”

The risk for sensorineural hearing loss in obese adolescents rises across all levels for both ears, bilaterally, but it is even higher for unilateral hearing loss. According to the study obese children are twice as likely to have hearing loss in one ear. This increase in hearing loss among overweight teens is troubling as many parents remain unaware of the subtle signs of hearing loss and children themselves often don’t recognize the condition. This new research further cements the need for all children to have annual checkups with a hearing health professional and especially those children who have issues with their weight. As Dr. Lalwani, an ENT at New York Presbyterian states in an article about this issue on Science Daily, "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."

Hearing loss often goes unnoticed because the symptoms mimic normal childhood behaviors—like trouble paying attention or not responding when called upon. Making sure your child has an annual checkup by an audiologist can teach them early the best habits when it comes to hearing health as they protect and preserve this amazing sense. Along with healthy eating habits, it is important that today's adolescents remain vigilant about the use of earbuds and the dangers of noise induced hearing loss.

If you'd like to learn more, see your hearing health provider. If you need help finding a hearing health provider click HERE to be connected with the largest network of trusted hearing health professionals in the nation!


Columbia University Medical Center. (2013, June 17). Obesity associated with hearing loss in adolescents. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 5, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130617160732.htm

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