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Table of Contents
Vol. 21, Suppl. 1, 2016
Issue release date: November 2016
Section title: Proceedings
Open Access Gateway
Audiol Neurotol 2016;21(suppl 1):10-15
(DOI:10.1159/000448348)

Contributing Determinants to Hearing Loss in Elderly Men and Women: Results from the Population-Based Rotterdam Study

Rigters S.C.a · Metselaar M.a · Wieringa M.H.a · Baatenburg de Jong R.J.a · Hofman A.b · Goedegebure A.a
Departments of aOtorhinolaryngology/Audiology and bEpidemiology, Erasmus MC - University Center Rotterdam, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
email Corresponding Author

Stephanie C. Rigters

Department of Otorhinolaryngology/Audiology, Erasmus Medical Center

PO Box 2040

NL-3000 CA Rotterdam (The Netherlands)

E-Mail s.rigters@erasmusmc.nl


Abstract

To contribute to a better understanding of the etiology in age-related hearing loss, we carried out a cross-sectional study of 3,315 participants (aged 52-99 years) in the Rotterdam Study, to analyze both low- and high-frequency hearing loss in men and women. Hearing thresholds with pure-tone audiometry were obtained, and other detailed information on a large number of possible determinants was collected. Hearing loss was associated with age, education, systolic blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, body mass index, smoking and alcohol consumption (inverse correlation). Remarkably, different associations were found for low- and high-frequency loss, as well as between men and women, suggesting that different mechanisms are involved in the etiology of age-related hearing loss.

© 2016 The Author(s) Published by S. Karger AG, Basel


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Introduction

Age-related hearing loss (ARHL) is highly prevalent [Gates and Mills, 2005] and contributes substantially to the global burden of disease [Pascolini and Smith, 2009]. ARHL is a disease with a complex etiology [Gates and Mills, 2005]. Schuknecht and Gacek [1993] described several audiological threshold patterns belonging to different pathological types, possibly with several etiologies and determinants. Since multiple determinants may interact in ARHL, it is essential to identify the individual and independent contribution of each of the determinants.

To date, several cross-sectional cohort studies have identified multiple contributing determinants to ARHL such as hypertension [Gates et al., 1993; Helzner et al., 2005; Rosenhall and Sundh, 2006], diabetes mellitus [Helzner et al., 2005], body mass index (BMI) [Fransen et al., 2008], smoking [Fransen et al., 2008; Gopinath et al., 2010; Dawes et al., 2014a, b], an inverse correlation of alcohol consumption [Fransen et al., 2008; Gopinath et al., 2010; Dawes et al., 2014a, b], occupational noise [Agrawal et al., 2008; Fransen et al., 2008], education [Agrawal et al., 2008], and race [Helzner et al., 2005; Agrawal et al., 2008]. Although consensus has been established about the associations with age, sex and occupational noise, less consistent results were found for determinants related to systemic diseases and lifestyle factors.

Methodological differences or insufficiencies in study design and data quality may be the reason for inconsistent results. Firstly, some studies rely on self-reported hearing loss instead of audiometric measurements. Secondly, many studies approach hearing loss as a categorical instead of a continuous variable, introducing loss of statistical power. Thirdly, most studies do not distinguish between low- and high-frequency hearing loss. Fourthly, some studies describe or select a specific cohort, rather than the general elderly population at large. And lastly, in some cases of research, only one or two determinants are examined while determinants will have a potential to influence one another and should thus be studied simultaneously.

With this study, we aimed to contribute to a better understanding of ARHL alongside the existing literature by studying the effects of known lifestyle factors and cardiovascular factors, on both low- and high-frequency hearing loss, among healthy elderly men and women within a large study cohort.

Material and Methods

Study Design and Subjects

This cross-sectional study was embedded in the Rotterdam Study [Hofman et al., 2015], an open-ended prospective cohort study, which focusses on factors associated with healthy aging. We included participants from cohorts RS-I-1, RS-II-3, and RS-III-2, who underwent pure-tone audiometry between 2011 and 2013. We excluded subjects with an air-bone gap of 15 decibel (dB) or more in the best hearing ear, to eliminate conductive hearing loss, leaving 3,315 participants.

The Rotterdam Study was approved by the medical ethics committee according to the Population Study Act Rotterdam Study, executed by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports of the Netherlands. A written informed consent was obtained from all participants.

Pure-Tone Audiometry

Pure-tone thresholds (air conduction: 0.25, 0.5, 1, 2, 4, and 8 kHz; bone conduction: 0.5 and 4 kHz) were measured in dB HL by pure-tone audiometry performed by a trained person according to the ISO standard 8253-1 [International Organization for Standardization, 2010]. All measurements were performed in a soundproof booth. A computer-based clinical audiometry system (Decos Technology Group, version 210.2.6 with AudioNigma interface) and TDH-39 headphones were used.

Outcome variables were the overall hearing loss (average threshold of all measured frequencies), low-frequency hearing loss (average thresholds at 0.25, 0.5, and 1 kHz), and high-frequency hearing loss (average thresholds at 2, 4, and 8 kHz). We calculated the averages for the best-hearing ear (i.e. lowest averaged thresholds of all measured frequencies), to exclude the confounding effects of asymmetrical hearing loss and focus on bilateral hearing loss. If both ears were equal, we alternately chose right and left.

Determinants

Several lifestyle and cardiovascular factors were investigated as possible determinants for ARHL. Age, sex, educational level, smoking status and alcohol consumption were determined at enrollment to the study through a questionnaire that was administered by a researcher at a home visit. Both smoking status and alcohol consumption were reassessed every 5 years at follow-up visits in the cohort study. Smoking status was categorized as never, former, or current smoker. Alcohol consumption was categorized as nondrinker, light drinker (1 unit per day for women and 1-2 units per day for men), or above-average drinker (more than 1 unit per day for women and more than 1-2 units per day for men) [Dawson and Room, 2000]. Educational level was categorized as completed primary level, secondary level, or higher education.

As well as audiometry, a set of examinations was done. Blood pressure was measured and the BMI was calculated. The cholesterol level was measured in serum, and the cholesterol ratio (the quotient of the total and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol) was calculated. Diabetic status was either confirmed at the home interview, tested by measuring glucose (fasting 7 mmol/l or more, nonfasting 11 mmol/l or more), or registered when a participant was prescribed diabetic medication.

Statistics

Data was checked for outliers and quadratic terms, which appeared not to be present. Missing data on covariates in 211 subjects (6.7%) were entered via multiple imputation. Missing values were present for educational level (1.5%), blood pressure (1.1%), diabetes mellitus (1.4%), cholesterol ratio (2.9%), BMI (1.2%), smoking (0.9%), and alcohol consumption (0.5%). Allowing for a 5% risk of type I error, significance was set at p < 0.05. A linear regression analysis was performed to assess the contribution of all determinants simultaneously. Data analysis was done using IBM SPSS Statistics version 21.

Results

Characteristics of the study population are summarized in table 1. Male participants had more hearing loss at high frequencies, while women had more hearing loss at low frequencies. Mean hearing thresholds for worse and better ears are shown in figure 1. A classic sloping audiogram can be seen.

Table 1

Characteristics of study population (n = 3,135)

http://www.karger.com/WebMaterial/ShowPic/525007

Fig. 1

Mean thresholds and standard deviations per frequency shown in pure-tone audiogram and table. a Better ear. b Worse ear.

http://www.karger.com/WebMaterial/ShowPic/525005

Results of the multivariable linear analyses are shown in table 2. In men, low-frequency hearing loss was significantly associated with age (0.44 dB loss per year of age) and systolic blood pressure (0.03 dB loss per increase in 1 mm Hg of blood pressure). High-frequency hearing loss in men was significantly associated with age (1.34 dB loss per year of age), lower educational level and being a current smoker.

Table 2

Multivariable model for low- and high-frequency hearing loss in men and women

http://www.karger.com/WebMaterial/ShowPic/525006

In women, low-frequency hearing loss was significantly associated with age (0.56 dB loss per year), lower educational level, BMI (0.09 dB loss per increase in 1 BMI point) and being a current smoker. Alcohol consumption was significantly associated with less low-frequency hearing loss (1.51 dB better hearing for light drinkers, 2.02 dB better hearing for above-average drinkers) when compared to nondrinkers. High-frequency hearing loss in women was significantly associated with age (1.25 dB loss per year), diabetes mellitus, BMI (0.18 dB loss per increase in 1 BMI point), and being a current smoker.

Discussion

Since ARHL is a growing problem in our increasing elderly population, it is important to gain a better understanding about its exact etiology. Obviously, ARHL is the cumulative effect of aging on hearing; however, multifactorial determinants are likely to contribute to the large variance observed in hearing loss among people of the same age.

In this study, we found a large number of determinants to be associated with ARHL including: age, smoking habits, consumption of alcohol, BMI, systolic blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, and educational level. Interestingly, these associations substantially differed between low- and high-frequency hearing loss, and also between men and women.

The largest effect on ARHL was found in age, as expected. For every decennium increase in age, hearing thresholds increase around 5 and 13 dB for low- and high-frequency hearing loss, respectively, in both men and women.

Furthermore, we found a substantial effect of smoking in both low- and high-frequency hearing loss in women and in high-frequency hearing loss in men. Associations with smoking were found in other studies [Gopinath et al., 2010; Dawes et al., 2014], but those studies did not stratify on gender, nor did they differentiate between high- and low-frequency hearing loss [Fransen et al., 2008]. Hypothetically, smoking can cause alterations in the cochlear blood flow, thereby leading to different effects on the base and apex of the cochlea. However, such alterations are hard to investigate because of the cochlea's location [Nakashima et al., 2003]. The consistent associations found for high-frequency loss suggest that at least the basal part of the cochlea is involved. The contrary seems true for the effect of alcohol consumption, as associations are only found with low-frequency loss, suggesting an influence upon the apical part of the cochlea. Dawes et al. [2014] also found an inverse effect of alcohol on hearing loss suggesting alcohol has a protective function on hearing due to complex cardiovascular pathways [Matsumoto et al., 2014]. Concerning other cardiovascular risk factors, we found an effect of systolic blood pressure in low-frequency hearing loss in men, an effect of BMI in low- and high-frequency hearing loss in women and an effect of diabetes mellitus in high-frequency hearing loss in men. The more pronounced effects of determinants upon low-frequency hearing loss in women serve as support for the hypothesis of a cardiovascular disease-related cause. However, we did not find significant associations with all cardiovascular determinants in our model as possibly our determinants were not sufficiently accurate to detect a vascular origin of hearing loss.

The strength of this study includes the fact that we measured pure-tone thresholds for individual frequencies, treating the average threshold as a continuous variable as opposed to using self-reported hearing loss estimations as categorical variables, thus permitting for greater power in analysis in our study design. Race was not considered as a variable since the cohort represented almost 100% Caucasians. A limitation of this study is the lack of information on noise exposure, as this was not included in the questionnaire for participants. Noise exposure is an obvious determinant as it causes direct mechanical damage to the cochlea [Ciorba et al., 2011]. The only implication about noise exposure as a possible determinate in this study is in considering the association between educational level and the amount of noise exposure. We found a significant association between lower educational attainment and hearing loss, while in other studies there was controversy on this issue [Helzner et al., 2005; Agrawal et al., 2008; Cruickshanks et al., 2015]. Indirectly, we could assume people with a higher education to be less exposed to occupational noise and, if exposed, they might be more inclined to use hearing protection. Previous studies that did take noise exposure into account, still found an independent effect of smoking and alcohol on hearing loss [Fransen et al., 2008; Dawes et al., 2014].

The results of the current study confirm that ARHL is highly prevalent and influenced by many factors. Extending the knowledge about these contributing factors is essential for the prevention and future treatment of ARHL. This can be achieved by comprehensive population-based studies, taking into account relevant environmental and medical aspects.

Conclusion

In conclusion, hearing loss was associated with age, education, systolic blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, BMI, smoking, and alcohol consumption (inverse correlation). Results were different for low- and high-frequency loss among men and women, suggesting that different mechanisms are involved in the etiology of ARHL. Overall, a healthy lifestyle, e.g. without smoking or being overweight, may contribute to less hearing loss at an older age.

Acknowledgments

We would like to thank Tekla Enser for her extensive work in performing all pure-tone audiometry on participants in this study. This research was funded by a grant from the Heinsius Houbolt foundation.

Disclosure Statement

The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.


References

  1. Agrawal Y, Platz EA, Niparko JK: Prevalence of hearing loss and differences by demographic characteristics among US adults: data from the national Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999-2004. Arch Intern Med 2008;168:1522-1530.
  2. Ciorba A, Benatti A, Bianchini C, Aimoni C, Volpato S, Bovo R: High frequency hearing loss in the elderly: effect of age and noise exposure in an Italian group. J Laryngol Otol 2011;125:776-780.
  3. Cruickshanks KJ, Nondahl DM, Dalton DS, Fischer ME, Klein BE, Klein R: Smoking, central adiposity, and poor glycemic control increase risk of hearing impairment. J Am Geriatr Soc 2015;63:918-924.
  4. Dawes P, Cruickshanks KJ, Moore DR, Edmondson-Jones M, McCormack A, Fortnum H, Munro KJ: Cigarette smoking, passive smoking, alcohol consumption, and hearing loss. J Assoc Res Otolaryngol 2014;15:663-674.
  5. Dawson DA, Room R: Towards agreement on ways to measure and report drinking patterns and alcohol-related problems in adult general population surveys: the Skarpö conference overview. J Subst Abuse 2000;12:1-21.
  6. Fransen E, Topsakal V, Hendrickx JJ, Van Laer L, Huyghe JR, Van Eyken E: Occupational noise, smoking, and a high body mass index are risk factors for age-related hearing impairment and moderate alcohol consumption is protective: a European population-based multicenter study. J Assoc Res Otolaryngol 2008;9:264-276.
  7. Gates GA, Cobb JL, D'Agostino RB, Wolf PA: The relation of hearing in the elderly to the presence of cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular risk factors. Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 1993;119:156-161.
  8. Gates GA, Mills JH: Presbyacusis. Lancet 2005;366:1111-1120.
  9. Gopinath B, Flood VM, McMahon CM, Burlutsky G, Smith W, Mitchell P: The effects of smoking and alcohol consumption on age-related hearing loss: the Blue Mountains Hearing Study. Ear Hear 2010;31:277-282.
  10. Helzner EP, Cauley JA, Pratt SR, Wisniewski SR, Zmuda JM, Talbott EO: Race and sex differences in age-related hearing loss: the Health, Ageing, and Body Composition Study. J Am Geriatr Soc 2005;53:2119-2127.
  11. Hofman A, Brusselle GG, Darwish Murad S, van Duijn CM, Franco OH, Goedegebure A: The Rotterdam Study: 2016 objectives and design update. Eur J Epidemiol 2015;30:661-708.
  12. International Organization for Standardization: Acoustic-Audiometric Test Methods. 1. Basic Pure Tone Air and Bone Conduction Threshold Audiometry. ISO 8253-1. Geneva, International Organization for Standardization, 2010.
  13. Matsumoto C, Miedema MD, Ofman P, Gaziano JM, Sesso HD: An expanding knowledge of the mechanisms and effects of alcohol consumption on cardiovascular disease. J Cardiopulm Rehabil Pre 2014;34:159-171.
  14. Nakashima T, Naganawa S, Done M, Tominga M, Hayashi H, Yamamoto H: Disorders of cochlear blood flow. Brain Res Rev 2003;43:17-28.
  15. Pascolini D, Smith A: Hearing Impairment in 2008: a compilation of available epidemiological studies. Int J Audiol 2009;48:473-485.
  16. Rosenhall U, Sundh V: Age-related hearing loss and blood pressure. Noise Health 2006;8:88-94.
  17. Schuknecht HF, Gacek MR: Cochlear pathology in presbycusis. Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol 1993;102:1-16.

Author Contacts

Stephanie C. Rigters

Department of Otorhinolaryngology/Audiology, Erasmus Medical Center

PO Box 2040

NL-3000 CA Rotterdam (The Netherlands)

E-Mail s.rigters@erasmusmc.nl


Article / Publication Details

First-Page Preview
Abstract of Proceedings

Published online: November 03, 2016
Issue release date: November 2016

Number of Print Pages: 6
Number of Figures: 1
Number of Tables: 2

ISSN: 1420-3030 (Print)
eISSN: 1421-9700 (Online)

For additional information: http://www.karger.com/AUD


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References

  1. Agrawal Y, Platz EA, Niparko JK: Prevalence of hearing loss and differences by demographic characteristics among US adults: data from the national Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999-2004. Arch Intern Med 2008;168:1522-1530.
  2. Ciorba A, Benatti A, Bianchini C, Aimoni C, Volpato S, Bovo R: High frequency hearing loss in the elderly: effect of age and noise exposure in an Italian group. J Laryngol Otol 2011;125:776-780.
  3. Cruickshanks KJ, Nondahl DM, Dalton DS, Fischer ME, Klein BE, Klein R: Smoking, central adiposity, and poor glycemic control increase risk of hearing impairment. J Am Geriatr Soc 2015;63:918-924.
  4. Dawes P, Cruickshanks KJ, Moore DR, Edmondson-Jones M, McCormack A, Fortnum H, Munro KJ: Cigarette smoking, passive smoking, alcohol consumption, and hearing loss. J Assoc Res Otolaryngol 2014;15:663-674.
  5. Dawson DA, Room R: Towards agreement on ways to measure and report drinking patterns and alcohol-related problems in adult general population surveys: the Skarpö conference overview. J Subst Abuse 2000;12:1-21.
  6. Fransen E, Topsakal V, Hendrickx JJ, Van Laer L, Huyghe JR, Van Eyken E: Occupational noise, smoking, and a high body mass index are risk factors for age-related hearing impairment and moderate alcohol consumption is protective: a European population-based multicenter study. J Assoc Res Otolaryngol 2008;9:264-276.
  7. Gates GA, Cobb JL, D'Agostino RB, Wolf PA: The relation of hearing in the elderly to the presence of cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular risk factors. Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 1993;119:156-161.
  8. Gates GA, Mills JH: Presbyacusis. Lancet 2005;366:1111-1120.
  9. Gopinath B, Flood VM, McMahon CM, Burlutsky G, Smith W, Mitchell P: The effects of smoking and alcohol consumption on age-related hearing loss: the Blue Mountains Hearing Study. Ear Hear 2010;31:277-282.
  10. Helzner EP, Cauley JA, Pratt SR, Wisniewski SR, Zmuda JM, Talbott EO: Race and sex differences in age-related hearing loss: the Health, Ageing, and Body Composition Study. J Am Geriatr Soc 2005;53:2119-2127.
  11. Hofman A, Brusselle GG, Darwish Murad S, van Duijn CM, Franco OH, Goedegebure A: The Rotterdam Study: 2016 objectives and design update. Eur J Epidemiol 2015;30:661-708.
  12. International Organization for Standardization: Acoustic-Audiometric Test Methods. 1. Basic Pure Tone Air and Bone Conduction Threshold Audiometry. ISO 8253-1. Geneva, International Organization for Standardization, 2010.
  13. Matsumoto C, Miedema MD, Ofman P, Gaziano JM, Sesso HD: An expanding knowledge of the mechanisms and effects of alcohol consumption on cardiovascular disease. J Cardiopulm Rehabil Pre 2014;34:159-171.
  14. Nakashima T, Naganawa S, Done M, Tominga M, Hayashi H, Yamamoto H: Disorders of cochlear blood flow. Brain Res Rev 2003;43:17-28.
  15. Pascolini D, Smith A: Hearing Impairment in 2008: a compilation of available epidemiological studies. Int J Audiol 2009;48:473-485.
  16. Rosenhall U, Sundh V: Age-related hearing loss and blood pressure. Noise Health 2006;8:88-94.
  17. Schuknecht HF, Gacek MR: Cochlear pathology in presbycusis. Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol 1993;102:1-16.