Could Anemia Cause Hearing Loss?
Iron deficiency might keep ear cells from getting oxygen they need, study suggests
By Randy Dotinga
THURSDAY, Dec. 29, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Hearing loss may be linked to iron deficiency anemia -- a combination of low levels of iron and red blood cells, new research suggests.
The study found that people with iron deficiency anemia have more than twice the rate of hearing loss as people without the blood disorder.
The association between hearing loss and iron deficiency anemia was particularly strong for two types of hearing loss -- one called sensorineural and combined sensorineural and conductive hearing loss.
Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when the inner ear or the nerve pathway from the inner ear to the brain is damaged, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).
Conductive hearing loss is when sounds aren't efficiently conducted from the outer ear to the eardrum or middle ear. Combined hearing loss is a mixture of the two, according to ASHA.
Sensorineural hearing loss is generally considered permanent, ASHA reports. And, that's where this study comes in. If iron deficiency anemia plays a role in hearing loss, it's possible that correcting the condition might lead to improvements in hearing.
But, for now, researchers say it's too soon to tell if that would happen, and they aren't recommending that people with hearing loss get blood tests for anemia.
"There is currently no evidence to confirm that treating iron deficiency anemia will improve hearing health," said study author Kathleen Schieffer. She's a graduate student at the Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine in Hershey, Pa.
The findings only show a possible connection between iron deficiency anemia and hearing loss, she said. They don't prove that one causes the other.
Still, Schieffer said, the study authors want to understand whether treating the blood condition will help improve or prevent hearing loss, particularly since iron deficiency anemia is a common and treatable condition in the United States.
The study authors pointed out that the inner ear is very sensitive to changes in blood supply, so it's possible that the lack of oxygen in the blood of people with iron deficiency anemia might affect the inner ear.