Low iron levels, or iron deficiency anemia, is a common condition. It is estimated that approximately 20 percent of women, 50 percent of pregnant women, and 3 percent of men do not consume enough iron. Hearing loss is also a common condition. Approximately 15 percent of adults aged 18 and older report some difficulty hearing.
Both conditions are fairly common, but are they connected? That is what several recent studies have set out to determine.
One study, published in 2017, reviewed medical record data from more than 300,000 adults in Hershey, Pennsylvania. The average age was 50, with participants ranging from 21 to 90 years old. According to the data found in these medical records, the researchers concluded that there is indeed a connection between iron deficiency anemia and hearing loss. They did so by identifying people who experienced hearing loss, as well as those who suffered from iron deficiency anemia.
In the study, the researchers considered three different types of hearing loss: sensorineural, conductive, and combined. Sensorineural hearing loss is the result of damage to the brain, the inner ear, or the nerve that runs from the ear to the brain. Conductive hearing loss is typically caused by a more “mechanical” problem that prevents sound from properly traveling through the ear, such as earwax or fluid blockages. Combined hearing loss is a combination of both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss.
The results of the study showed that people with iron deficiency anemia were 2.4 times more likely to have combined hearing loss than those who did not have iron deficiency anemia. In addition, those with iron deficiency anemia were also 1.8 times more likely to have sensorineural hearing loss. Interestingly, no link was found between conductive hearing loss and iron deficiency anemia.
Researchers believe the connection between iron deficiency anemia and sensorineural hearing loss may be due to damage to the blood vessels in the ear. Iron deficiency anemia has already been linked to this type of blood vessel damage, which may help explain the connection between anemia and sensorineural hearing loss. However, researchers also caution that they found only a link between iron deficiency anemia and hearing loss; they have not found that iron deficiency anemia causes hearing loss.
Other studies have also found a link between iron deficiency anemia and hearing loss. In 2019, a systematic review and meta-analysis of four studies were conducted. Based on the four studies, a person’s risk for hearing loss is 55 percent higher if that person has iron-deficiency anemia. While more research must be conducted to further explore the connection between these two conditions, existing research indicates there is indeed a link. At this point, no research has been done as to whether treatments for iron deficiency anemia help to treat or prevent hearing loss as well.
We welcome you to contact our hearing professional today if you would like to learn more about the connection between iron deficiency anemia, or if you would like to schedule an appointment. We are happy to answer your questions.