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Hypertension, Diuretic Use, and Risk of Hearing Loss

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Hearing loss is highly prevalent among adults in the United States. Hypertension also is common and often treated with diuretics. Hypertension may increase the risk of hearing loss by decreasing vascular supply to the stria vascularis. Use of thiazides has been anecdotally associated with hearing loss. In small studies, furosemide use has been associated with hearing loss that is usually reversible, but can be permanent. We investigated the relation among hypertension, diuretic use, and hearing loss in a prospective cohort of 54,721 women in the Nurses’ Health Study I, 1994 to 2012.


Eligible participants included 54,721 female nurses aged 48 to 73 years in 1994 who provided information on thiazide diuretic and furosemide use in 1994, answered the question on hearing loss over their lifetime in 2012, and did not report hearing loss with date of onset before date of onset of hypertension diagnosis or medication use. The outcome was self-reported hearing loss. Cox proportional hazards regression was used to adjust for potential confounders.


During 774,096 person-years of follow-up, 19,296 cases of hearing loss were reported (incidence rate, 25 cases per 1000 person-years). At baseline in 1994, the mean age was 57.9 years and mean body mass index was 26.3 kg/m2. Some 30.8% of participants had a history of hypertension. History of hypertension was independently associated with a modestly higher risk of hearing loss (multivariable adjusted relative risk, 1.04 [1.01-1.07]). Among women with a history of hypertension, neither thiazide diuretic (multivariable adjusted relative risk, 1.07 [0.99-1.16]) nor furosemide use (multivariable adjusted relative risk, 0.91 [0.75-1.09]) was significantly associated with risk of hearing loss when compared with women not taking antihypertensive medications. There was no significant effect modification by age.


History of hypertension was associated with a small increased risk of hearing loss. Thiazide diuretic use and furosemide use were not associated with risk of hearing loss among women with a history of hypertension.


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-Brian M. Lin, MD, Sharon G. Curhan, MD, ScM, Molin Wang, PhD, Roland Eavey, MD, Konstantina M. Stankovic, MD, PhD, Gary C. Curhan, MD, ScD

Other hypertension research in this issue

This article originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of The American Journal of Medicine.

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