Background The association between exposure to air pollution and sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL) has not been extensively discussed in the literature. Therefore, we conducted this nationwide study to evaluate the risk of SSNHL in Taiwanese residents with exposure to air pollution.
Methods We enrolled subjects aged older than 20 years with no history of SSNHL from 1998 to 2010, and followed up until developing SSNHL, withdrawn from the National Health Insurance program, and the end of the database (2011/12/31). The air quality data are managed by Taiwan Environmental Protection Administration. The annual concentrations of PM2.5, SO2, CO, NO, and NO2 from 1998 to 2010 were classified into the three levels according to tertiles. We calculated the annual average of pollutants from baseline until the end of the study, and classified into tertiles. The adjusted hazard ratio (aHR) was estimated by using the multivariate Cox proportional hazard model.
Results When considered continuous air pollutants concentration, subjects who exposed with higher concentration of CO (aHR=2.19, 95%CI=1.52-3.15), NO (aHR=1.02, 95%CI=1.01-1.03), and NO2 (aHR=1.02, 95%CI=1.01-1.04) developing significant higher risk of SSNHL.When classified air pollutants concentration into low, moderate and high level by tertiles, and selected low level as reference, patients exposed with moderate (aHR=1.58, 95%CI=1.21-2.06) or high level (aHR=1.32, 95%CI=1.00-1.74) of PM2.5 showed significant higher risk of developing SSNHL.
Conclusion This study indicated an increased risk of SSNHL in residents with long-term exposure to air pollution. Nevertheless, further experimental and clinical studies are needed to validate the study findings.
All authors declare that there is no conflicts of interest. This study was approved in part by Taiwan Ministry of Health and Welfare Clinical Trial and Research Center of Excellence (MOHW105-TDU-B-212-133019). The committee agree to waive the requirement for consent.