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Background: An association has previously been reported between finger blanching and hearing difficulties, but only in workers with exposure to noise and hand transmitted vibration (HTV).
Aims: To explore the association in a community sample, including cases who lacked occupational exposure to noise or HTV.
Method: A questionnaire was mailed to 12 606 subjects aged 35–64 years, chosen at random from the age–sex registers of 34 British general practices. Inquiry was made about years of employment in noisy jobs, lifetime exposure to HTV, hearing difficulties and tinnitus, and lifetime history of cold induced finger blanching. Subjects were classed as having severe hearing difficulty if they used a hearing aid or found it difficult or impossible to hear conversation in a quiet room. Associations of finger blanching with hearing difficulties and tinnitus were analysed by logistic regression.
Results: Among 8193 respondents were 185 who reported severe hearing difficulty and 1151 who reported finger blanching. After adjustment for age and years of work in noisy jobs, hearing difficulty was about twice as common in men and women who reported finger blanching, including those who had never been importantly exposed to noise and in those never exposed to HTV.
Conclusions: These data support an association between finger blanching and hearing loss, which is not explained by confounding occupational exposure to noise, and suggest that it may extend to causes of blanching other than vibration induced white finger. Further investigations are warranted to confirm the association and explore possible mechanisms, such as sympathetic vasoconstriction in the cochlea.