Study: Poor Childhood Nutrition Can Lead to Hearing Loss

happy family eating outside
January 29, 2019

Undernourished preschool children are about twice as likely to suffer from hearing loss as young adults when compared with their better-nourished counterparts, a recent study found.

The study, conducted by researchers from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggests that nutritional interventions for young children can help to prevent hearing loss in the future. According to the, National Institute of on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, about two to three out of every 1,000 children born in the US have a detectable level of hearing loss in one or both ears.

Loss of hearing is an oft-neglected public health issue that affects million of people all over the world. The study notes hearing loss is fourth on the list of leading causes of disability globally – with about 80% of affected individuals living in low- and middle-income countries. The study, which evaluated young adults in South Asia, estimated that the prevalence of hearing impairment among children and young adults in the region falls between 14 and 28%.

While the study focuses on South Asia, malnutrition is a problem that can affect any child anywhere. Early childhood malnutrition is a modifiable risk factor for hearing loss. Must-eat nutrients that should be included in a balanced diet for children while they are growing up include:

  • Protein
  • Carbohydrates
  • Fats
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Folate
  • Fiber
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin B

The John Hopkins researchers believe their investigation is the first to study the relationship between generalized under-nutrition and hearing loss, but another study, published in Clinical and Experimental Otorhinolaryngology, found that reduced intake of B2 and B3, water and protein may be associated with tinnitus and tinnitus-related annoyance. Tinnitus is the perception of noise or ringing in the ears, and the condition is thought to affect up to 50 million people in the US.

Studies investigating hearing loss among older adults can also provide valuable insight into how certain vitamins and nutrients support healthy hearing. Research reported in Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery suggests that deficiencies in folic acid and B12 can affect hearing by harming the nervous and vascular systems. These deficiencies may also damage the coating over the cochlear nerve.