Objectives/hypothesis: Hearing loss is the most common sensory disorder in the United States, affecting more than 36 million people. Cardiovascular risk factors have been associated with the risk of hearing loss in cross-sectional studies, but prospective data are currently lacking.
Study design: Prospective cohort study.
Methods: We prospectively evaluated the association between diagnosis of hypertension, diabetes mellitus, hypercholesterolemia, smoking, or body mass index (BMI) and incident hearing loss. Participants were 26,917 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, aged 40 to 74 years at baseline in 1986. Study participants completed questionnaires about lifestyle and medical history every 2 years. Information on self-reported professionally diagnosed hearing loss and year of diagnosis was obtained from the 2004 questionnaire, and cases were defined as hearing loss diagnosed between 1986 and 2004. Multivariable-adjusted hazard ratios (HRs) were calculated using Cox proportional hazards regression models.
Results: A total of 3,488 cases of hearing loss were identified. History of hypertension (HR 0.96; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.88-1.03), diabetes mellitus (HR 0.92; 95% CI, 0.78-1.08), or obesity (HR 1.02; 95% CI, 0.90-1.15 for BMI >or=30 compared to normal range of 19-24.9) was not significantly associated with hearing-loss risk. Hypercholesterolemia (HR 1.10; 95% CI, 1.02-1.18) and past smoking history (HR 1.09; 95% CI, 1.01-1.17) were associated with a significantly increased risk of hearing loss after multivariate adjustment.
Conclusions: A history of hypertension, diabetes mellitus, or obesity is not associated with increased risk of hearing loss; a history of past smoking or hypercholesterolemia has a small but statistically significant association with increased risk of hearing loss in adult males.