A narrative review of obesity and hearing loss

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Abstract

The comorbidities related to obesity are already extensive, but as the prevalence of obesity increases globally, so do the number of its associated conditions. The relationship between hearing impairment and obesity is a relatively recent research interest, but is significant as both conditions have the ability to substantially reduce an individual's quality of life both physically and psychologically. Obesity has a significant effect on vascular function, and this may have an impact on highly vascular organs such as the auditory system. This review aims to provide an overview of the existing literature surrounding the association between hearing loss and obesity, in order to emphasise these two highly prevalent conditions, and to identify areas of further investigation. Our literature search identified a total of 298 articles with 11 articles of relevance to the review. The existing literature in this area is sparse, with interest ranging from obesity and its links to age-related hearing impairment (ARHI) and sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL), to animal models and genetic syndromes that incorporate both disorders. A key hypothesis for the underlying mechanism for the relationship between obesity and hearing loss is that of vasoconstriction in the inner ear, whereby strain on the capillary walls due to excess adipose tissue causes damage to the delicate inner ear system. The identified articles in this review have not established a causal relationship between obesity and hearing impairment. Further research is required to examine the emerging association between obesity and hearing impairment, and identify its potential underlying mechanisms.

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