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J Am Geriatr Soc. 2000 Oct;48(10):1273-8.

Moderate alcohol consumption and hearing loss: a protective effect.

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Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, University of Wisconsin, Madison 53705-2397, USA.



To determine if moderate alcohol consumption is associated inversely with hearing loss in a large population based study of older adults.


Cross-sectional population based cohort study. Data are from the 1993-1995 examinations for the population based Epidemiology of Hearing Loss Study (EHLS) (n = 3571) and the Beaver Dam Eye Study (BDES) (n = 3722).


Midwestern community of Beaver Dam, Wisconsin.


Residents of Beaver Dam aged 43 to 84 in 1987-1988 were eligible for the BDES (examinations in 1988-1990 and 1993-1995). During 1993-1995, this same cohort was eligible to participate in the baseline examination for the EHLS.


Hearing thresholds were measured by pure tone air and bone conduction audiometry (250-8000 Hz.). History of alcohol consumption in the past year, heavy drinking (ever), medical history, occupation, noise exposure, and other lifestyle factors were ascertained by a questionnaire that was administered as an interview.


In multiple logistic regression analyses controlling for potential confounders, moderate alcohol consumption (>140 grams/week) was inversely associated with hearing loss (PTA(.5,1,2,4 > 25 dB HL); odds ratio [OR] = .71, 95% confidence interval [CI] = .52, .97; where PTA is pure tone average). A similar association was found for moderate hearing loss (PTA(.5,1,2,4 > 40 dB HL); OR = 0.49, 95% CI = 0.32, 0.74). Alcohol consumption was associated inversely with the odds of having a low frequency hearing loss (OR = 0.61) or a high frequency hearing loss (OR = 0.60). These findings did not vary significantly by age or gender. There was an increase in the odds of having a high frequency hearing loss (OR = 1.35, 95% CI = 1.04, 1.75), in those with a history of heavy drinking (> or =4 drinks/day). Including cardiovascular disease or its related factors did not significantly attenuate the protective effect.


There is evidence of a modest protective association of alcohol consumption and hearing loss in these cross-sectional data. This finding is in agreement with a small body of evidence suggesting that hearing loss is not an inevitable component of the aging process.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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