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Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2011 May;137(5):432-9. doi: 10.1001/archoto.2011.15. Epub 2011 Feb 21.

The prevalence of hearing impairment and associated risk factors: the Beaver Dam Offspring Study.

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Department of Population Health Sciences, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, 610 N Walnut St, Rm 1036 WARF, Madison, WI 53726, USA.



To estimate the prevalence of hearing impairment (HI) and evaluate the cross-sectional associations of environmental and cardiovascular disease risk factors and HI in middle-aged adults.


Data were collected as part of the Beaver Dam Offspring Study, an epidemiological cohort study of aging. Hearing impairment was defined as a pure-tone average (0.5, 1.0, 2.0, and 4.0 kHz) greater than 25 db hearing level in either ear. Word recognition in competing message (WRCM) was measured using the Northwestern University No. 6 word list. Questionnaire information about behaviors, environmental factors, and medical history was also collected.


The participants (N = 3285) were offspring of participants of the population-based Epidemiology of Hearing Loss Study and ranged in age from 21 to 84 years (mean age, 49 years).


The prevalence of HI was 14.1%, and the mean (SD) WRCM score was 64% (15%). In a multivariate model, after age, sex, education, and occupational noise were controlled for, a history of ear surgery (odds ratio [OR], 4.11; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.37-7.15), a larger central retinal venular equivalent (OR, 1.77; 95% CI, 1.20-2.60 [fourth quartile vs first quartile]), and a higher hematocrit percentage (OR, 0.77; 95% CI, 0.63-0.95 [per 5%]) were independently associated with HI. Factors associated with lower WRCM scores were similar but also included mean intima-media thickness (mean difference, -0.63%; 95% CI, -1.06% to -0.19%; P = .005 [per 0.1 mm]) and statin use (mean difference, -2.09%; 95% CI, -3.58% to -0.60%; P = .005).


Hearing impairment is a common condition in middle-aged adults. Cardiovascular disease risk factors may be important correlates of age-related auditory dysfunction.

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