Research has found that adults with iron deficiency anemia (IDA) are twice as likely to have hearing loss as the rest of the population.
A 2016 study from Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine followed more than 300,000 individuals between the ages of 21-90 and concluded that anemic individuals were twice as likely to develop sensorineural hearing loss.
Anemia occurs when the body doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells or hemoglobin, which binds oxygen. If hemoglobin levels are low, your body won’t get enough oxygen. If left untreated, anemia can seriously damage organs.
Approximately 200,000 people are diagnosed with sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) each year, according to the Mayo Clinic. SNHL is caused by damage to the auditory nerve or inner ear, either through congenital defects and infections in children or exposure to loud noise in adults.
The inner ear requires oxygen to maintain the health of tiny hair cells that translate sounds into electrical impulses that the brain can interpret. Without oxygen, these cells die, leading to permanent hearing loss.
Bodies operating without enough iron for extended lengths can experience decreased energy, weight loss, shortness of breath and dizziness. Anemia is most common in women in childbearing years because of the blood lost during menstruation. Most people get sufficient amounts of iron through a balanced diet. Foods such as red meat, poultry, fish, leafy vegetables, beans, and fortified pasta and cereals are high in iron.
The study, published in 2016 in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, concluded that more research needs to be conducted before iron supplements can be counted on as a proven treatment plan for hearing loss.