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In-Home Senior Care Health Watch: Are Low Levels of Iron Related to Hearing Loss?

Dec 30, 2016 by Tony B.

Researchers have found that people with iron deficiency anemia were 2.4 times likely to develop some sort of hearing loss as compared to those without iron deficiency.  In the study (published December 29th in the JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery ) researchers looked at 300, 000 adults in Hershey, Pennsylvania aged between 21 to 90 and found some interesting correlations between IDA and hearing loss.

Sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) which is the sudden and rapid deterioration of hearing in a period of seventy-hours or less, is 1.8% more likely to occur in patients with IDA. In 2014, 15% of the general population reported problems with hearing – the highest prevalence was among white men.1

Overall the prevalence of combined hearing loss (SNHL and Conductive Hearing Loss) was present in 3.4% of the population with IDA compared to just 1.6% of those without IDA. Conductive Hearing Loss is generally attributed to more ‘mechanical’ issues (ruptured eardrum, ear wax, channel blockages, etc.), and was not considered by the researchers in the study.

The researchers note that there is an association between IDA in adults and hearing loss but the exact causation and correlation is not fully understood, however, what can be extrapolated is the prompt diagnosis and treatment of IDA may positively affect the overall health of adult with hearing loss.

Common reasons for iron deficiency in seniors include kidney disease, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, chemotherapy and cancer. If you suspect your senior is anemic or has an iron deficiency check with your doctor for possible causes and what lifestyle changes can be made to address the issue.  Iron supplements should not be taken without a physician’s supervision as too much iron may cause depression, loss of muscle mass and strength, enlarged liver or spleen or chronic fatigue and joint pain.

Beyond their finding, the researchers also note that hearing loss in the adult population is linked to “…hospitalization, poor self-reported health, hypertension, diabetes and tobacco use.”  The full abstract of the study and data set summation can be found online at The JAMA Network.

  1. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Summary health statistics for US adults: National Health Interview Survey, 2012. Vital Health Statistics, series 10, No.  260. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_10/sr10_260.pdf. Published 2014. Accessed January 12, 2016.
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