Although it may not get as much press as some other disorders, anemia is remarkably common. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, nearly 30% of people on the planet suffer from it. While that number is significantly lower in the United States and other highly industrialized nations, the rate of anemia can still range from between 2% to 20%, depending on the subgroup in question.
Even though anemia can have a wide range of causes, the most common contributor is iron deficiency, which can cause exhaustion, weariness, chest pains and cold extremities. Now, however, people with iron deficiency anemia may have a new concern, as a recent study has shown a strong link between this disorder and hearing loss.
How Does IDA Cause Hearing Loss?
Most of us take our hearing ability for granted, but the body systems that allow you to hear are actually incredibly delicate. In particular, the tiny hair cells in the inner that take in noises are so fragile that even something as simple as not getting enough iron can cause them to stop working correctly. Once these cochlear hair cells are impaired, the amount of sound information transmitted to the brain is reduced, resulting in hearing loss.
For the most recent study into how IDA can impact hearing, researchers examined a group of volunteers between the ages of 21 and 90. Surprisingly, the study found that 3.4% of subjects with iron deficiency anemia suffered from some degree of hearing loss, as opposed to 1.6% of subjects who have hearing loss but no anemia. In general, that means that people with IDA are more than twice as likely to develop hearing problems.
Specifically, it appears that iron deficiency anemia increases the rate of two different types of hearing loss, conductive hearing loss and sensorineural hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss occurs when noises are not adequately transmitted from the outer ear to the inner ear. Sensorineural hearing loss, on the other hand, occurs when the nerves leading from the ear to the brain are damaged or destroyed. In both cases, a lack of iron causes nerves to stop relaying accurate sound information.
So what can be done? Fortunately, it seems that hearing loss as a result of IDA isn't permanent. By correcting the iron deficiency, research suggests that it may be possible to restore some hearing ability. Still, more research is necessary to determine all the ways in which iron deficiency anemia interacts with the hearing systems in the body.
If you or someone you know would like to learn more about hearing loss and how to treat it, please feel free to schedule a consultation or contact one of our representatives today!