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Obesity May Be Hard on Your Hearing, Study Says

Extra pounds, particularly around the waist, raised risk for hearing loss, but exercise was protective

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"Obesity and factors that obesity brings on may compromise blood flow to the cochlea," Curhan said. The cochlea is the hearing chamber of the inner ear. Curhan said lack of blood flow could prevent the cochlea from restoring itself after damage, gradually diminishing its function.

An expert who was not involved in the study said the research raised important questions.

"It's an excellent starting point, and a strong suggestion," said Dr. Ian Storper, director of the otology program at the New York Head and Neck Institute's Center for Hearing and Balance Disorders at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

Storper said the study relied on participants to report their own hearing loss. They weren't given hearing tests, which might have skewed the results.

Another expert said it might be time to count hearing loss as yet another way obesity harms the body.

"This is intriguing to me, and it is worrisome," said Dr. Michael Weitzman, a professor of environmental medicine and pediatrics at New York University's Langone Medical Center.

In June, Weitzman published a study in the journal Laryngoscope that found obese teenagers had almost twice the risk for early hearing loss as normal-weight teens.

"[The new study] supports what we found," he said.

"I think there's a reason to begin to think that this is a problem that's associated with obesity," Weitzman said. "You might want obese kids or adults who have ... academic problems to have their hearing checked."

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