How body composition influences hearing status by mid-childhood and mid-life: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children

Jing Wang, Valerie Sung, Kate Lycett, Peter Carew, Richard S. Liu, Anneke Grobler, Stephen R. Zubrick, Tim Olds, Melissa Wake

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8 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Hearing loss is a disabling condition whose prevalence rises with age. Obesity—a risk factor common to many non-communicable diseases—now appears to be implicated. We aimed to determine: (1) cross-sectional associations of body composition measures with hearing in mid-childhood and mid-life and (2) its longitudinal associations with 10-year body mass index (BMI) trajectories. Methods: Design & Participants: There were 1481 11–12-year-old children and 1266 mothers in the population-based cross-sectional CheckPoint study nested within the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC). Anthropometry (CheckPoint): BMI, fat/fat-free mass indices, waist-to-height ratio; LSAC wave 2–6-biennial measured BMI. Audiometry (CheckPoint): Mean hearing threshold across 1, 2 and 4 kHz; hearing loss (threshold > 15 dB HL, better ear). Analysis: Latent class models identifying BMI trajectories; linear/logistic regression quantifying associations of body composition/trajectories with hearing threshold/loss. Results: Measures of adiposity, but not fat-free mass, were cross-sectionally associated with hearing. Fat mass index predicted the hearing threshold and loss in children (β 0.6, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.3–0.8, P < 0.001;, odds ratio (OR) 1.2, 95% CI 1.0–1.4, P = 0.05) and mothers (β 0.8, 95% CI 0.5–1.2, P < 0.001; OR 1.2, 95% CI 1.1–1.4, P = 0.003). Concurrent obesity (OR 1.5, 95% CI 1.1–2.1, P = 0.02) and waist-to-height ratio (WHtR) ≥ 0.6 (OR 1.6, 95% CI 1.2–2.3, P = 0.01) predicted maternal hearing, with similar but attenuated patterns in children. In longitudinal analyses, mothers’, but not children’s, BMI trajectories predicted hearing (OR for severely obese 3.0, 95% CI 1.4–6.6, P = 0.01). Conclusions: Concurrent adiposity and decade-long BMI trajectories showed small, but clear, associations with poor hearing in mid-life women, with emergent patterns by mid-childhood. This suggests that obesity may play a role in the rising global burden of hearing loss. Replication and mechanistic and body compositional studies could elucidate possible causal relationships.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Obesity
Issue number10
Early online date19 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018


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