Poor nutrition in early childhood could lead to hearing loss


Contributed by Debbie Clason, staff writer, Healthy Hearing

Fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy products and a variety of proteins — all of these are foods the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) list in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans as part of a healthy eating pattern important for the growth and development of children and adolescents. Eaten in the proper amounts and in conjunction with exercise, a balanced diet helps maintain a healthy body weight and reduces the risk of developing serious health conditions later in life.

Nutrition and hearing loss in children

nutrition hearing loss
Good nutrition is important for kids’ health,

including hearing.

The CDC says poor nutrition in childhood can lead to an increased risk for developing health conditions such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis — and now even hearing loss. A new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that young adults who suffered from poor nutrition in early childhood were twice as likely to suffer hearing loss than their peers.

Researchers at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health analyzed the relationship between the nutritional levels and hearing health of 2,200 young adults in Nepal. These young adults had already been part of a nutrition trial conducted between 1989 and 1991 when they were young children. Researchers tested their hearing from 2006 to 2008 and found that those who were too short or too thin for their age were twice as likely to show signs of hearing loss.

In the case of stunted growth, researchers suspect poor nutrition impedes inner ear development, beginning in the womb. As for underweight caused by malnutrition, researchers hypothesize this raises the risk for developing ear infections. Chronic ear infections can 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,” Keith West Jr., a professor of International Health at the Bloomberg School and the principal investigator of the study said in a February 8 ScienceDaily release.

Poor nutrition in the U.S.

West said there are more than 160 million undernourished children in the Gangetic region of South Asia, a condition which puts them at high risk for health and developmental problems. Here in the United States, poor nutrition early in life is often a result of food insecurity, or the inability of a family to afford enough food for all its members. According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), just over 12 percent of American households were food insecure in 2016 due to a lack of resources, and the level of food insecurity is closely tied to economic and demographic factors. 

Just over 12 percent of American households experienced food insecurity in 2016. 

For Americans who are not food insecure, poor nutrition can be a result of choice or lack of knowledge. According to the CDC, empty calories from added sugars and solid fats account for 40 percent of daily calories for children and adolescents age 2-18 years of age. Most youth do not meet daily fruit and vegetable recommendations or drink the recommended amount of water.

Setting a healthy example

Modeling good health habits for your family can help your children and grandchildren develop healthy habits of their own and stave off hearing loss due to poor nutrition.  Eat a balanced diet, get the proper amount of exercise, protect your hearing from exposure to loud or excessive noise, and schedule regular checkups with a hearing healthcare professional. To find a hearing center in your community, search Healthy Hearing’s clinic directory.


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