Iron Deficiency and Hearing Loss

Red blood cells cannot carry enough oxygen for your body without an adequate amount of iron. An iron deficiency, also known as anemia, results in low red blood cell levels and can cause serious health complications, including hearing loss.

How does anemia affect your hearing?

Your body needs a balanced amount of iron in order for your auditory system and other organs to function properly. Too little of it can cause anemia, which results in a lack of hemoglobin (the protein that carries oxygen) in red blood cells. Cells without an adequate supply of oxygen can begin to perform poorly or die off. If that happens within your ear’s labyrinthine artery (main source of blood to your inner ear), you can lose your hearing. Anemia also interferes with myelin production (a substance around nerve fibers that helps with conduction), which can damage nerves, including the sensitive hair cells that conduct sound from your ears to your brain.

While research indicates an association between iron deficiency anemia and hearing loss, more is required to better understand the correlation, and whether prompt treatment of anemia could alleviate hearing difficulties. Studies have found that people with anemia are twice as likely to have hearing loss as those who don’t have the disorder. The form of hearing loss found to most commonly accompany iron deficiency is mixed. Sensorineural hearing loss affects the inner ear or neural pathways, and is usually due to damage to the inner ear or auditory nerve. Conductive hearing loss usually results from diseases or disorders affecting the outer and/or middle ear. A combination of both sensorineural and conductive is called mixed hearing loss, and was found in approximately 3.4 percent of anemic individuals studied.

How to get a good dose of iron

While improving your iron levels alone may not prevent hearing loss, healthy eating has been linked to better hearing. Combining foods high in iron like meat, dark leafy greens, nuts, and dark chocolate with foods high in vitamin C like orange juice, broccoli, and strawberries can help you maintain a healthy iron balance.

If you have an iron deficiency and start to develop hearing loss, schedule an appointment with a  hearing care professional.