Low iron levels may be linked to hearing loss

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WHEN people have low levels of iron in their blood, they may develop a condition called iron deficiency anemia, which is known to have wide-ranging effects throughout the body, and now, a new study suggests that this condition may be linked to hearing loss as well. In the study, adults who had iron deficiency anemia were more than twice as likely to develop a specific type of hearing loss, called combined hearing loss, compared with those who did not have iron deficiency anemia, according to the study.
In the study, published Dec. 29 in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, the researchers looked at data from the medical records of more than 300,000 adults in Hershey, Pennsylvania. The participants’ ages ranged from 21 to 90; the average age was 50.
Based on the medical records, the researchers identified the people in the study who had iron deficiency anemia as well as any diagnoses of hearing loss. Hearing loss was divided into three categories: sensorineural hearing loss, which results from damage to the inner ear, damage to the nerve that runs from the ear to the brain, or damage to the brain; conductive hearing loss, which occurs when sound cannot travel through the ear properly; and combined hearing loss, which is a combination of the two.
The researchers found that the people with iron deficiency anemia were 2.4 times more likely to have combined hearing loss compared with those who did not have iron deficiency anemia. The people with iron deficiency anemia were also 1.8 times more likely to have sensorineural hearing loss. There was no link, however, between iron deficiency anemia and conductive hearing loss, according to 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, the researchers, led by Kathleen Schieffer, a doctoral student at Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, wrote in the study.
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 wrote.

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