Can Iron Deficiency Increase Your Risk Of Hearing Loss?

The fact that iron is extremely crucial to the human body is no recent discovery, but we’re only beginning to understand some aspects of its role in human health. The essential mineral is vital for some of the most important physiological processes, such as cell growth and differentiation. As one of the key components of hemoglobin, iron also helps shuttle oxygen throughout the body. Low iron levels in the blood can lead to a condition known as iron deficiency anaemia, which poses the threat of adverse long-term effects on the body. Shockingly, the deficiency has a high prevalence, affecting over 30 per cent of Indian men and 50 per cent of women in their 30’s and 40’s.

The Link Between Iron Deficiency & Hearing Loss

“Researchers found that people with iron deficiency anaemia were nearly two times more likely to have sensorineural hearing loss or combined hearing loss, as compared to non-anaemic adults”

We usually associate hearing loss risks with the use of earphones and headphones at loud volumes, but it turns out that even those of us who play it safe may be at risk. A study published quite recently has established a link between iron deficiency anaemia (IDA) and hearing loss. Categorizing hearing loss as sensorineural, conductive, or a combination of the two, researchers sought to understand the association between IDA and the three types of hearing loss.

Sensorineural loss is one that occurs as a result of damage to the inner ear or brain or because of damage to the nerve that connects the two. Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound is unable to travel through the ear. Combined hearing loss is a combination of the two. After scouring through the records of more than 3 lakh adults, researchers found out that the likelihood of combined hearing loss was twice as high among iron deficient anaemics, as compared to in those who did not have the condition. Though the study did not establish a direct link to conductive hearing loss, it did discover that people with iron deficiency anaemia were also nearly two times more likely to have sensorineural hearing loss.

How Iron Deficiency Affects Your Hearing

“Iron deficiency anaemia invariably leads to blood disorders, which can damage the delicate blood vessels in the inner ear & the protective sheath around nerve cells, resulting in hearing loss”

Iron deficiency anaemia invariably leads to blood disorders. These disorders can cause some serious damage to the delicate blood vessels in the inner ear, also giving rise to problems in the sheath that surrounds nerve cells. These factors put the person at a high risk of developing sensorineural hearing loss, which is linked to the nerves that connect the ear. Conductive loss, on the other hand, results from mechanical damage to the ear, thus is not directly related to IDA. By signifying the association between IDA and specific hearing loss, this finding opens possibilities for early identification and treatment of the condition.

With these wide-ranging consequences of iron deficiency anaemia, it is safe to say that adding seafood, lentils and those leafy greens to your diet is the smart thing to do! For those of you anaemics who love beer, there’s a silver lining to this story as a pint of dark beer, because of its rich iron content, may help address the problem!

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