Iron Deficiency Potentially Linked to Hearing Loss
Remember when you were a kid and there were those Popeye cartoons, where he pops a can of spinach into his mouth and then his muscles grow because of the iron?
Well, your muscles won’t all of a sudden quadruple in size just with a can of spinach – but iron is an important part of a balanced diet! Among many other nutrients that we should include in our daily intake, iron helps us metabolize proteins and are a crucial player in our red blood cell production.
A diet that lacks iron could lead to anemia, cause fatigue, and weaken the immune system. And, as new research shows, iron deficiency could potentially cause hearing loss.
Study: Link Between Iron Deficiency Anemia and Hearing Loss
Published JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, a new study reports a link between iron deficiency anemia and hearing loss. Conducted by Dr. Kathleen M. Schieffer at the Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, this study evaluated data from over 300,000 patients between the ages of 21 and 90.
Patients in this data group had visited the Penn State Hershey Medical Center between the years of 2011 and 2015. Information had been collected about their serum ferritin and hemoglobin levels (level of iron in blood). For the purposes of this study, “low ferritin levels were defined as less than 12.0 nanograms per milliliter and low hemoglobin levels were determined according to age and sex.”
In addition to tracking iron levels, this data reveals information on hearing loss identification. All three forms of hearing loss were observed in the data set – conductive, sensorineural, or mixed. According to the data analysis, researchers found that “subjects who had iron deficiency anemia had 82% higher odds of being diagnosed with sensorineural hearing loss and a greater than two-fold increased risk of combined hearing loss.”
What is Sensorineural Hearing Loss?
Sensorineural hearing loss relates to the inner ear environment. When sound waves enter your ears, they travel through your middle ear, are amplified by the eardrum, and then are sent as vibrations to your inner ear.
In the inner ear, tiny hair cells translate these vibrations into neural signals, which are sent to the auditory center in your brain where they are registered as sounds you recognize. With sensorineural hearing loss, this process breaks down, usually due to damage to inner ear hair cells, which cannot translate the vibrations into neural signals.
What Does Iron Deficiency Have to Do with Hearing Loss?
Your inner ear environment is sensitive and works very precisely. It depends on a healthy supply of blood flow to ensure that it is thriving. Researchers of this study note that “only one artery supplies blood to the cochlea [inner] of the ear, and that low hemoglobin levels that impair the blood’s oxygen carrying capacity can lead to ischemia in this area.” (Ischemia is defined as “an inadequate blood supply to an organ or part of the body.”)
In order to treat this issue, Dr. Schieffer and her team tell us, “Iron deficiency anemia is easily treated with several months of oral iron supplementation.” Treating iron deficiency anemia brings other health benefits as well – such as a reduction of fatigue and improved work capacity. At the same time, Dr. Schieffer and team note that “additional studies are needed to determine whether there is a link between iron supplementation and hearing status.”
How to Get Iron in Your Diet
Iron is an important nutrient in a well-balanced diet. In addition to supporting your hearing health, iron strengthens your immune system to help fight off infections, and it builds concentration, treats insomnia, and regulates your body temperature. Iron helps hemoglobin formation – which helps with oxygen supply in your body. It also helps strengthen muscle cells – that Popeye cartoon with spinach isn’t far off from the truth!
You may find iron in a number of whole foods. Incorporating legumes, lentils, soy beans, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, cereals, bread, spinach, turnip, fish, lean meats, sprouts, broccoli, and dry fruits into your diet will bring a healthy dose of iron.
If Your Hearing Abilities are Changing
If you’ve noticed your hearing abilities changing, or if you are struggling to hear every day sounds and conversation partners, you may be experiencing a hearing loss.
Contact us at Preferred Hearing Centers today for a comprehensive hearing test.