Big bellies, bad hearing

Can you hear me now?

I know, you're reading not listening. But if people sound like they're mumbling all the time... if you find you're always turning up the volume on the TV... and if the world around you seems less than loud and clear, you probably have a hearing problem.

And the problem might not be limited to your ears.

Obesity can increase the risk of hearing loss by 25 percent and a larger waistline will up those odds by 27 percent, at least in women, according to one new study.

It's not because your ears are getting fat. It's because obesity is usually accompanied by a sedentary lifestyle -- and being sedentary is a major cause of hearing loss.

Your ears need good circulation to function right. When you're sedentary, however, your circulation suffers -- and your hearing (among other things) suffers along with it.

Getting just a little bit of movement can change that. The study finds that women who walk just 4 hours a week have a 15 percent lower risk of hearing loss than women who get no movement.

And while the study was on women, I'm sure you'd find similar results in men.

But really, a little hearing loss is nothing next to all the other risks of obesity. It might even soften the blow when you can't quite hear your doctor give you all the bad news that's bound to come your way: diabetes, heart disease, dementia and more.

Those risks, and not hearing loss, are the real reasons you should keep slim and trim.