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Iron deficiency anemia associated with hearing loss

December 29, 2016

In a study published online by JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, Kathleen M. Schieffer, B.S., of the Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, Hershey, Pa., and colleagues examined the association between sensorineural hearing loss and conductive hearing loss and iron deficiency anemia in adults ages 21 to 90 years in the United States.

In 2014, approximately 15 percent of adults reported difficulty with hearing. Because iron deficiency anemia (IDA) is a common and easily correctable condition, further understanding of the association between IDA and all types of hearing loss may help to open new possibilities for early identification and appropriate treatment. For this study, using data obtained from deidentified electronic medical records from the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, Pa., iron deficiency anemia was determined by low hemoglobin and ferritin levels for age and sex in 305,339 adults ages 21 to 90 years; associations between hearing loss and IDA were evaluated.

Of the patients in the study population, 43 percent were men; average age was 50 years. There was a 1.6 percent prevalence of combined hearing loss (defined as any combination of conductive hearing loss [hearing loss due to problems with the bones of the middle ear], sensorineural hearing loss, deafness, and unspecified hearing loss) and 0.7 percent prevalence of IDA. Both sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL; when there is damage to the cochlea or to the nerve pathways from the inner ear to the brain) (present in 1.1 percent of individuals with IDA) and combined hearing loss (present in 3.4 percent) were significantly associated with IDA. Analysis confirmed increased odds of SNHL and combined hearing loss among adults with IDA.

"An association exists between IDA in adults and hearing loss. The next steps are to better understand this correlation and whether promptly diagnosing and treating IDA may positively affect the overall health status of adults with hearing loss," the authors write.
(JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. Published online December 29, 2016. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2016.3631. The study is available pre-embargo at the For The Media website.)

Editor's Note: This publication was supported by grants from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. All authors have completed and submitted the ICMJE Form for Disclosure of Potential Conflicts of Interest and none were reported.

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