Study Title:

Inflammation and Hearing Status in Mid-Childhood and Mid-Life: A Population-Based Cross-Sectional Study

Study Abstract

Background: Lifelong inflammation - known to be associated with many non-communicable diseases - has not been thoroughly investigated in hearing. We aimed to determine if glycoprotein A (GlycA), a novel biomarker of chronic inflammation, is associated with hearing acuity in mid-childhood and mid-life.

Methods: Population-based cross-sectional study within the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children with plasma GlycA and audiometry data (1169 children and 1316 parents). We calculated high Fletcher Index (mean threshold across 1, 2 and 4 kHz), defining hearing loss as threshold >15 decibel hearing level (dB HL) (better ear). Linear/logistic regression quantified associations of GlycA with hearing threshold/loss.

Results: Mean [standard deviation (SD)] high Fletcher Indices (dB HL) were 8.0 (5.7) for children and 13.1 (6.9) for adults, with 8.7% and 26.1% respectively showing hearing loss. 1-SD rise in GlycA (children 0.13 mmol/L, adults 0.17 mmol/L) predicted higher hearing thresholds for the lower individual frequencies [1 kHz: children β 0.8, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.3-1.3; adults β 0.8, 95% CI 0.2-1.4]. This same pattern was evident for the high Fletcher Index (children β 0.7, 95% CI 0.3-1.1; adults β 0.8, 95% CI 0.3-1.4). This translated into 1-SD rise in GlycA predicting adult hearing loss [odds ratio (OR) 1.2, 95% CI 1.0-1.5] with similar but attenuated patterns in children.

Conclusions: GlycA is associated with poorer hearing by mid-childhood. This potentially reframes hearing loss as a life-course condition with inflammatory antecedents common to other non-communicable diseases. Replication and mechanistic studies could inform causal inference and early prevention efforts.

Study Information

Int J Epidemiol . 2019 Oct 1;48(5):1556-1566. doi: 10.1093/ije/dyz023.

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