Here’s surprising finding by the otolaryngology group at Columbia University: Obese teens had a higher rate of hearing loss. In a comment to the blog post, one person even suggested the possibility that deafness could lead to behaviors that lead to obesity. Regardless of what the actual cause may be, one possibility that’s almost never mentioned is obstructive sleep apnea. There are numerous studies suggesting that obstructive sleep apnea can potentially lead to hearing loss.
One study showed that speech perception and discrimination is affected by sleep disturbed breathing. Another study showed that auditory brain waves were abnormal in children with obstructive sleep apnea. A third study showed that most patients with obstructive sleep apnea had thick (or viscous) blood, and this was associated with abnormal auditory brainstem signals. Correction of this blood thickening using CPAP or hemodilution (lowering blood concentration by removing some blood and adding saline) corrected the brainstem signal abnormalities. These three studies (amongst many others) suggest that untreated obstructive sleep apnea can significantly impair hearing.
Knowing that obstructive sleep apnea causes poor sleep quality and poor sleep can cause weight gain, and weight gain can aggravate weight gain, the results of this teen hearing loss study are not surprising.