Subclinical atherosclerosis and increased risk of hearing impairment.

PMID 25555266


The study's purpose was to test if subclinical atherosclerosis was associated with the risk of developing HI in a large cohort of middle-aged participants. Study subjects were members of the Beaver Dam Offspring Study (BOSS), a longitudinal study of adult children of participants in the population-based Epidemiology of Hearing Loss Study (1993-present). BOSS examinations took place in 2005-2008 (baseline) and 2010-2013 (5-year follow-up). The 5-year incidence of hearing impairment was defined as a pure-tone average (PTA) of thresholds at 0.5, 1, 2 and 4 kHz > 25 dB Hearing Level (dB HL) in either ear at follow-up among participants at risk (baseline PTA in both ears < = 25 dB HL; n = 2436, mean age = 47.7 years). Atherosclerosis was measured as the mean carotid intima-media thickness and the presence of carotid artery plaque. Among the 1984 participants at-risk with a follow-up audiometric examination, the 5-year incidence of hearing impairment was 8.3% (95% Confidence Interval (C.I.) 7.1, 9.5). With multivariable adjustment, carotid intima-media thickness was positively associated with hearing impairment incidence (Relative Risk (RR) = 1.14 per 0.1 mm, 95% C.I. 1.04, 1.24). The number of sites (0-6) with plaque was also positively associated with the incidence of impairment (RR = 1.16 per site, 95% C.I. 1.01, 1.32). Atherosclerosis was associated with the 5-year incidence of hearing impairment in this predominantly middle-aged cohort. Interventions targeting atherosclerosis prevention may help to prevent or delay the onset of hearing impairment.