People who have low levels of iron in their blood may be prone to hearing loss, reports Live Science. A new study suggests that when people have low levels of iron, they may develop a condition called iron deficiency anemia which is linked to varying effects throughout the body, including hearing loss.
In the study, researchers looked at the medical records of more than 300,000 adults in Hershey, Pennsylvania. They found that individuals who had iron deficiency anemia were more than twice likely to develop a specific type of hearing loss – known as combined hearing loss – compared to those without iron deficiency anemia. The participants’ ages ranged from 21 to 90. The results of the study were published in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery.
Hearing loss was divided into three types: conductive hearing loss, which occurs when sound cannot travel through the ear properly; sensorineural hearing loss, which results from damage to the inner ear; and combined hearing loss, which is a combination of the two.
Researchers found that individuals with iron deficiency anemia were 2.4 times more likely to have combined hearing loss compared with those who did not have low levels of iron. Individuals with iron deficiency anemia were also 1.8 times more likely to have sensorineural hearing loss. No link, however, was found between iron deficiency anemia and conductive hearing loss.
Kathleen Schieffer, lead study author and doctoral student at Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, wrote in the study:
Earlier research suggested several potential reasons why iron deficiency anemia may be linked to hearing loss and, in particular, to sensorineural hearing loss.
Researchers also wrote: “Sensorineural hearing loss can develop when damage occurs to the tiny blood vessels in the ear, and iron deficiency anemia can put a person at risk for such damage. For example, iron deficiency anemia has been linked to several blood disorders that can cause such damage to these delicate blood vessels. In addition, the condition has been linked to problems with myelin, a sheath that surrounds nerve cells, including the nerve that runs from the ear to the brain.”
The researchers noted, however, that although their findings suggest that there is an association between certain types of hearing loss and iron deficiency anemia, it does not prove a cause-and-effect relationship between the two.