Research Paper Volume 11, Issue 1 pp 48—62

The association between obesity, diet quality and hearing loss in older adults

Pauline H. Croll1,2,3, , Trudy Voortman2, , Meike W. Vernooij2,3, , Robert J. Baatenburg de Jong1, , Frank R. Lin4, , Fernando Rivadeneira2,5, , M. Arfan Ikram2, , André Goedegebure1, ,

  • 1 Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam, the Netherlands
  • 2 Department of Epidemiology, Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam, the Netherlands
  • 3 Department of Radiology and Nuclear Medicine, Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam, the Netherlands
  • 4 Department of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery and Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA
  • 5 Department of Internal Medicine, Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam, the Netherlands

Received: October 3, 2018       Accepted: December 6, 2018       Published: January 4, 2019
How to Cite

Copyright: © 2019 Croll et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


Background: With the aging population, the prevalence of age-related hearing loss will increase substantially. Prevention requires more knowledge on modifiable risk factors. Obesity and diet quality have been suggested to play a role in the etiology of age-related hearing loss. We aimed to investigate independent associations of body composition and diet quality with age-related hearing loss.

Methods: We performed cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses (follow-up: 4.4 years) in the population-based Rotterdam Study. At baseline (2006-2014), 2,906 participants underwent assessment of body composition, diet, and hearing. Of these 2,906 participants, 636 had hearing assessment at follow-up (2014-2016). Association of body composition and of diet quality with hearing loss were examined using multivariable linear regression models.

Results: Cross-sectionally, higher body mass index and fat mass index were associated with increased hearing thresholds. These associations did not remain statistically significant at follow-up. We found no associations between overall diet quality and hearing thresholds.

Conclusions: This study shows that a higher body mass index, and in particular a higher fat mass index, is related to age-related hearing loss. However, whether maintaining a healthy body composition may actually reduce the effects of age-related hearing loss in the aging population requires further longitudinal population-based research.


BMI: body mass index; FMI: fat mass index; FFMI: fat-free mass index; dB: decibel; kHz: kilohertz; DXA: dual –energy X-ray absorptiometry; FFQ: food-frequency questionnaire; SD: standard deviation; CI: confidence interval; ISO: International Organization for Standardization.