Hearing loss has been associated with iron deficiency and anemia, according to a study published by JAMA Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery. The study was helmed by Pennsylvania State University’s Kathleen M. Schieffer, and it observed the relationship between sensorineural hearing loss, conductive hearing loss, and iron deficiency anemia (IDA) in adults aged 21–90.
Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when there is damage to the cochlea or nerve pathways from the inner ear to the brain, while conductive hearing loss is caused by issues with the bones of the inner ear. Combined hearing loss is defined as the combination of two or more types of hearing loss, such as conductive hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss, deafness, and unspecified hearing loss. The study retrospectively reviewed data from a sample’s medical records to determine whether a definite link between hearing loss and IDA exists.
To conduct the study, the medical records of 305,339 participants were examined, and Dr. Schieffer determined whether they had iron deficiency anemia by reviewing hemoglobin and ferritin levels, in relation to their age and sex. She found that 1.6 percent of participants had some form of combined hearing loss, while 0.7 percent of the group were determined to have IDA. Sensorineural hearing loss showed a prevalence of 1.1 percent in those with IDA, while combined hearing loss was found in 3.4 percent of individuals with IDA. A definite relationship was found between specific types of hearing loss and iron deficiency anemia, and the authors of the study concluded that “An association exists between IDA in adults and hearing loss. The next steps are to better understand this correlation and whether promptly diagnosing and treating IDA may positively affect the overall health status of adults and hearing loss.”
Iron deficiency anemia linked to chronic kidney disease
Anemia has also been linked to other health issues, such as chronic kidney disease. Anemia occurs when the body is unable to produce enough red blood cells to properly circulate and carry necessary oxygen throughout the body to breakdown glucose into energy. Those dealing with kidney disease experience a decline in kidney function, which causes a decrease in the production of red blood cells. Healthy kidneys produce erythropoietin (EPO), which is responsible for encouraging blood circulation that spurs on vital bodily functions, including the creation of red blood cells. As kidney function worsens, the level of EPO produced decreases, which results in a decline in the production of red blood cells, causing anemia.
The identification of a relationship between iron deficiency anemia and sensorineural and combination hearing loss is an important discovery, as IDA is easily managed and early detection may be able to aid in the prevention of hearing loss in certain cases. More research is needed to determine whether the link between these conditions is a causality rather than a correlation.