Hearing loss is a common condition that millions of Americans deal with every year. While the most likely causes of hearing loss are things like noise exposure, aging and genetics, other factors may increase your risk as well.
Some research has indicated that there is a link between low iron levels and an increased risk of certain types of hearing loss.
What Are the Different Types of Hearing Loss?
It might surprise you to learn that there is more than one type of hearing loss. In fact, there are three basic types of hearing loss which include:
- Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL): SNHL is the most common type of hearing loss and occurs when the inner ear or auditory nerve is damaged.
- Conductive hearing loss: This type of hearing loss occurs when an issue in the outer or middle ear (such as a blockage or fluid buildup) prevents sound from reaching the inner ear.
- Combined/mixed hearing loss: This can occur when a person has both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.
What Kind of Hearing Loss is Associated with Low Iron Levels?
A cohort study published in 2017 wanted to see if iron deficiency anemia is associated with hearing loss in adult populations. Researchers examined health records from 305,339 adults between the ages of 21-90 and compared the rates of IDA next to the rates of different types of hearing loss. They found that iron deficiency anemia was associated with sensorineural hearing loss and combined hearing loss.
Why is There an Association Between Iron Levels and Hearing Loss?
Researchers concluded that more research needs to be done to establish why the association exists between IDA and certain types of hearing loss. However, there are some theories as to why iron levels might affect hearing health.
- Blood flow to the inner ear. Anemia can cause poor circulation, which affects blood flow to the inner ear. A lack of blood in this area can damage the hair cells located there, leading to sensorineural hearing loss.
- Myelin breakdown. Myelin is an insulating substance that protects the nerves of the body. Being deficient in iron may cause a breakdown of myelin, including that which surrounds the auditory nerve. This could lead to damage to the auditory nerve, which is another cause of sensorineural hearing loss.
Should You Take an Iron Supplement for Hearing Loss?
If you’re concerned about your iron levels, make an appointment with your medical provider before taking any supplements or making dietary changes. If a blood test reveals IDA, your doctor may recommend or prescribe a supplement or suggest adding iron-rich foods to your list the next time you are grocery shopping or out at Spencer Farmers Market.
If you are concerned that low iron levels have damaged your hearing or have signs of hearing loss, make an appointment for a hearing test. These results will help your audiologist identify what type of hearing loss you have as well as determine its severity. The vast majority of permanent hearing loss is treated with hearing aids.
To learn more or to schedule an appointment, contact Nelson Hearing Clinics today.