Children who are undernourished during their preschool years are more likely to experience hearing loss as young adults, according to a study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. This study was conducted in Nepal, a country in South Asia, and involved more than 2,200 people.
From 2006 to 2008, the researchers performed hearing tests on young adults who had been part of a trial assessing their nutritional status about 16 years earlier. They found that young adults whose growth had been stunted when they were children – those who were smaller or thinner than expected for their age – were twice as likely to exhibit signs of hearing loss.
Auditory function and inner ear development begin in the womb, and malnutrition early in life may contribute to hearing loss. Children who are undernourished are also more susceptible to infection – including ear infections, which can damage hearing.