Allostatic load and risk of hearing impairment

Katey Matthews, Piers Dawes, Rebecca Elliott, Asri Maharani, Neil Pendleton, Gindo Tampubolon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Prevention of hearing loss via addressing potentially modifiable risk factors may offer means of reducing the global burden of hearing loss. Prior studies reported associations between individual markers of inflammation and risk of hearing impairment. Allostatic load is an index of cumulative physiological stressors, including inflammation, to multiple biological systems. Our aims were to investigate associations between allostatic load and both audiometric and self-reported hearing impairment and examine whether associations are stronger over time due to prolonged high allostatic load. Methods: Data were taken from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), a nationally representative study of people aged 50+ living in England over 3 time points between 2008 and 2014. Allostatic load score was comprised of thirteen different measures available at baseline and 4 years post-baseline (high-density lipoprotein/total cholesterol, triglyceride, fibrinogen, haemoglobin A1c, C-reactive protein, insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), systolic and diastolic blood pressure, mean arterial pressure, resting pulse rate, peak expiratory flow, BMI and waist circumference), measured using clinical cut-off points for normal biomarker parameters. Hearing acuity was measured with a simple handheld tone-producing device at follow-up 7 years post-baseline, while self-reported hearing impairment was measured at time point. Results: We included samples of 4373 and 4430 for the cross-sectional and longitudinal analysis, respectively. In the cross-sectional model high allostatic load was associated both self-reported (OR = 1.08, 95% CI 1.0,1.1; p < 0.01) and objective hearing loss (OR = 1.10, 95% CI 1.1,1.2; p < 0.001) adjusting for age and sex. Cross-sectional associations between allostatic load and hearing were not significant after further adjustment for covariates (qualification, physical activity and smoking). In longitudinal modelling, high allostatic load was associated with both audiometric (Z score OR = 1.11, 95% CI 1.1,1.2; p < 0.001) and self-reported hearing impairment (OR = 1.08, 95% CI 1.0,1.1; p < 0.001) adjusting for age and sex. Allostatic load was no longer associated with self-reported hearing loss but the association with audiometric hearing impairment (OR = 1.08, 95% CI 1.03,1.13; p < 0.001) remained following additional adjustment for baseline self-reported hearing, education, physical activity, and smoking. Conclusions: Prolonged high allostatic load was associated with risk of hearing impairment. Reducing allostatic load via healthy lifestyle changes including non-smoking, healthy diet and exercise may offer an opportunity to reduce the risk of hearing impairment in later life.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100496
Pages (from-to)100496
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
Publication statusPublished - 25 Nov 2022


  • Allostatic load
  • Hearing impairment
  • Fibrinogen
  • Haemoglobin A1c
  • C-reactive protein
  • Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1)
  • Ageing

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global Development Institute
  • Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing


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