Hearing loss associated with less physical activity

Photo credit: Pavel Danilyuk from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

A new study based on data collected by the National Health and Nutrition Evaluation Survey found that hearing loss is associated with less physical activity. NHANES is a statistically valid health survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, using a random selection of American adults and then questionnaire, physical examination, laboratory, and other testing results.

The strengths of the study include its statistically valid sampling, tested research methods, and rigorous statistical analysis. Movement data were obtained via an accelerometer worn on the wrist. I’m concerned that of the adults age 30-69 included, there were only a small number with hearing loss, but the conclusions are in line with other research studies.

Possible explanations for the association include social isolation or concerns about falling among those with hearing loss. I didn’t see one alternate explanation, that some other factor associated with decreased movement such as systemic illness might also be the causal factor for hearing loss.

Physical activity, detected in this study by the wrist-worn accelerometers, is associated with a longer, healthier life in multiple research studies going back to the 1940s.  If normal hearing helps people stay active, this study lends added importance to prevention of hearing loss, rather than treating it or trying to find a cure for it

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