Chances are you’ve heard of iron deficiency anemia or low iron levels. You may know that it can cause extreme fatigue along with other troubling symptoms and that it can have a significant impact on your overall health. You may also be wondering what low iron levels have to do with hearing health. According to experts, it could be a hidden cause of hearing loss.
What is iron-deficiency anemia?
It is estimated that 10 million people are iron deficient in the United States, including 5 million who have iron deficiency anemia. In many cases, it is preventable and curable. Iron deficiency anemia is “a condition in which blood lacks adequate healthy red blood cells.” It is these red blood cells that carry vital oxygen throughout the body. This type of anemia can lead to symptoms such as:
- Extreme fatigue
- Pale skin
- Brittle nails
- Headache, dizziness or lightheadedness
- Cold extremities
- Unusual cravings or low appetite
These are just some of the symptoms you can experience with this form of anemia. According to researchers, low iron levels could also lead to hearing loss.
Low iron and hearing loss
Over recent years, researchers have begun to explore the potential link between iron deficiency anemia and various types of hearing loss. While the research has been limited, a link is hard to deny.
- In a study in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, researchers analyzed the medical records of more than 300,000 adults aged 21 to 90 in Pennsylvania. Using the records, the team identified those who had both iron deficiency anemia and hearing loss. Those with iron deficiency anemia were 2.4 times more likely to have combined hearing loss and 1.8 times more likely to have sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) than those who did not have anemia.
- A systematic review and meta-analysis that included the previous study and three others noted similar links between low iron levels and hearing loss. The four studies reviewed included 344,080 adults and children. The researchers determined that individuals with iron deficiency anemia were 55% more likely to develop SNHL than those without.
While many theorize that hearing loss develops due to blood vessel damage in the ears, which can be a side effect of anemia, the exact cause is yet to be determined.
Ultimately, the researchers in each study concluded that more research was needed but that there were steps that could be taken now by physicians and hearing health care providers. Specifically, hearing evaluations for those diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia are considered a smart step to help identify and treat hearing loss early in millions of Americans.
If you’ve been diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia, your doctor may run tests to determine the underlying cause and recommend treatments such as supplements. Whether or not they recommend it, a hearing evaluation is a great next step to get a baseline of your hearing and identify any changes in hearing.
Contact our office to discuss your hearing health and how to manage it (including hearing aid options) and to schedule a hearing evaluation.