Send to

Choose Destination
Ear Hear. 2016 May-Jun;37(3):334-44. doi: 10.1097/AUD.0000000000000256.

Salivary Cortisol Profiles of Children with Hearing Loss.

Author information

1Department of Hearing & Speech Sciences, Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee, USA; 2Department of Psychiatry, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine & Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, Nashville, Tennessee, USA; and 3Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development and University Center of Excellence on Developmental Disabilities, Nashville, Tennessee, USA.



It has long been speculated that effortful listening places children with hearing loss at risk for fatigue. School-age children with hearing loss experiencing cumulative stress and listening fatigue on a daily basis might undergo dysregulation of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activity resulting in elevated or flattened cortisol profiles. The purpose of this study was to examine whether school-age children with hearing loss show different diurnal salivary cortisol patterns than children with normal hearing.


Participants included 32 children with mild to moderate hearing loss (14 males; 18 females) and 28 children with normal hearing (19 males; 9 females) ranging in age from 6 to 12 years. Saliva samples were obtained six times per day on two separate school days. Cortisol levels were measured by mass spectrometric detection after liquid-liquid extraction. Salivary cortisol levels between children with hearing loss and children with no hearing loss over the course of the day were examined with hierarchical linear modeling using mixed model statistical analysis. Between-group comparisons were also computed for the area under the curve, an analytical approach for calculating overall cortisol secretion throughout the day.


Significant differences in the cortisol awakening response (CAR) were observed between children with hearing loss and children with normal hearing; however, no differences were observed between the two groups subsequent to the cortisol awakening response (60-min postawakening, 10:00 A.M., 2:00 P.M., and 8:00 P.M.). Compared with children with normal hearing, children with hearing loss displayed elevated cortisol levels at awakening and a reduced growth in cortisol secretion from awakening to 30-min postawakening. No significant differences in overall cortisol secretion throughout the day were found between groups (area under the curve). Finally, cortisol levels increased with increasing age for children with hearing loss but not for children with normal hearing.


Results of this preliminary study indicate a possible dysregulation in HPA axis activity in children with hearing loss characterized by elevated salivary cortisol levels at awakening and a diminished increase in cortisol from awakening to 30-min postawakening. The pattern of elevated cortisol levels at awakening is consistent with some studies on adults with burnout, a condition characterized by fatigue, loss of energy, and poor coping skills. These findings support the idea that children with hearing loss may experience increased vigilance and need to mobilize energy promptly in preparation for the new day.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wolters Kluwer Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center