Poor Early Childhood Nourishment Increases Risk of Hearing Loss in Adults

Hearing loss children adults malnourishment nutrition health

Adult hearing loss may be a result of childhood deficiencies according to a recent study on hearing impairment in people from lower socioeconomic countries.


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Hearing Loss in Childhood Linked To Deficiency And Subsequently. Adult Hearing Loss

The prevalence of young adult hearing loss is high in low-resource societies. The led researchers to discover that the reasons for this are likely complex but could involve early childhood undernourishment

Low Weight, Stunted Growth And Failure To Thrive Studied As Significant Factors To Hearing Loss

Researchers evaluated preschool childhood stunting, wasting, and underweight as risk factors for hearing loss in young adulthood in Sarlahi District, southern Nepal. The findings were published in the American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition.

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Ear health was assessed in 2006–2008 in a cohort of 2193 subjects aged 16–23 years, who as children (less than 5 years of age) participated in a 16-mo placebo-controlled, randomized vitamin A supplementation trial from 1989 to 1991. At each of the five 4 month assessments, field staff measured children's weight, height, and mid-upper arm circumference and recorded validated parental history of ear discharge in the previous seven days. Children were classified as stunted, or wasted, mid-upper arm circumference for-age or body mass index-for-age.

Follow-up Auditory Testing Reveals Hearing Loss

At follow-up, hearing was tested by auditory testing with hearing loss defined as pure-tone average in the worse ear and middle-ear dysfunction as abnormal tympanometric peak height or width.


Results showed that hearing loss, present in 5.9% of the subjects of this study, was associated with early childhood stunting, underweight and wasting by body mass index-for-age and mid-upper arm circumference for-age. Abnormal tympanometry, affecting 16.6%, was associated with underweight and wasting by body mass index-for-age, and mid-upper arm circumference for-age, but not stunting in early childhood. Highest ORs were observed for subjects with both hearing loss and abnormal tympanometry, ranging from 1.87 to 2.24.

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Malnourishment Can Cause Hearing Loss

Based on these results, it was therefore concluded that early childhood undernourishment is a modifiable risk factor for early adulthood hearing loss.

"Our findings should help elevate hearing loss as a still-neglected public health burden, and one that nutrition interventions in early childhood might help prevent," says Keith West Jr., a professor of International Health at the Bloomberg School and the principal investigator of the study. The lead author was Susan Emmett, MD, MPH, an otolaryngologist who conducted the analysis and wrote the paper as a postdoctoral fellow at the Bloomberg School's Center for Human Nutrition.

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Deficiency of Zinc and Vitamin A Linked To Hearing Loss

Previous studies have linked deficiencies of micronutrients, including zinc and vitamin A, to hearing impairment. However, this study is believed to be the first, to evaluate the relationship of undernutrition to hearing loss. It is also therefore believed to be the first study to identify lack of early childhood nutrition as a vital risk factor for continued deficiency and later-life hearing loss.

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