Understanding Hearing Loss: Hearing Research with the UK Biobank Resource

The UK Biobank is a large data set established for investigations of the genetic, environmental and lifestyle causes of diseases of middle and older age. Over the course of 2006-2010, 503,325 UK adults between the ages of 40 to 69 years were recruited. Participants responded to questionnaire measures of lifestyle and demographic factors, performed a range of physical measures and donated biological samples. A subset of 164,770 participants completed a hearing test (the Digit Triplet Test, a measure of speech recognition in noise). During 2012 to 2013, 4,425 participants completed a repeat assessment of hearing.

A multi-disciplinary team including researchers from Manchester, Nottingham, Leeds, London, Cincinnati and Wisconsin are collaborating to analyse hearing and tinnitus data from the UK Biobank. In this talk, I report some of the first analyses, including i) an overview of patterns of hearing impairment and hearing aid use, ii) cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption as risks for hearing loss, and iii) the effect of pre-natal and childhood development on adult hearing function.

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe how hearing loss relates to demographic factors including age, sex, ethnicity and socioeconomic status in the UK.
2. Awareness of smoking, passive exposure to tobacco smoke and alcohol consumption in relation to hearing.
3. Identify how developmental experiences of childhood may impact on adult hearing and susceptibility to hearing loss.