09 October 2018

Poor nutrition in early childhood might cause hearing loss

Undernutrition in early childhood might cause hearing loss later in life. Poor nutrition harms the development of the auditory functions and increases the risk of hearing loss.

People who were undernourished as preschool children are twice as likely to get a hearing loss as people who did not suffer from undernutrition as children, according to an American study that was carried out in Nepal.

Stunting and malnutrition

Undernutrition can cause conditions which might harm the development of the ears and thereby the hearing ability. These are conditions like stunting and acute malnutrition.

Participants who were stunted in childhood were almost twice as likely to have a hearing loss, the study states. Stunting is a chronic condition of undernourishment that often starts before birth. Therefore, this condition is critical for the development of the auditory function.

Participants who suffered from malnutrition as a child were twice as likely to have a hearing loss, the study found. Malnutrition is defined as shorter and more severe periods of undernutrition, which raises the susceptibility to infections in the ear among other things.

The researchers state that damaged inner ear development caused by undernutrition might cause an increased risk of hearing loss. Repeated ear infections can also cause 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., principal investigator of the study and professor at International Health, Bloomberg School in the US.

About the study

The study was conducted in Nepal from 2006 to 2008. The hearing ability was tested on more than 2,200 young adults who had been part of a nutrition trial conducted between 1989 and 1991.

The study “Early childhood undernutrition increases risk of hearing loss in young adulthood in rural Nepal” was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Sources: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, February 2018 and www.newswise.com

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