[Updated May 10, 2018]
Hearing loss increases with age, affecting 40 to 66% of adults over age 65 and 80% of adults over age 85. Scientists are exploring whether iron deficiency contributes to the problem. Using clinical data from electronic medical records of 305,339 young to elderly adults, scientists examined the relationship between hearing loss and iron deficiency anemia. They found that risk for sensorineural hearing loss, the type linked to problems in the nerves of the inner ear (as opposed to mechanical obstruction), was 82 percent higher in those deficient in iron.
“The inner ear blood supply is very sensitive to insufficient oxygen, and it has been suggested that iron deficiency anemia may further compromise this situation,” says Deepa Sekhar, MD, MSc, a coauthor of the study published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery. “At this point we don’t have evidence that iron deficiency anemia causes hearing loss, but only that there is an association between the two conditions.” It’s possible low iron status may just be a marker for another dietary component or underlying health-related issue causing hearing loss.