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Early childhood undernutrition increases risk of hearing loss in young adulthood in rural Nepal

Emmett SD, Schmitz J, Karna SL, Khatry SK, Wu L, LeClerq SC, Pillion J, West KP Jr (2018) Am J Clin Nutr.  2018 Feb 7.  doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqx022. [Epub ahead of print] 

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Prevalence of young adult hearing loss is high in low-resource societies; the reasons for this are likely complex but could involve early childhood undernutrition.


We evaluated preschool childhood stunting, wasting, and underweight as risk factors for hearing loss in young adulthood in Sarlahi District, southern Nepal.


Ear health was assessed in 2006-2008 in a cohort of 2193 subjects aged 16-23 y, who as children 30dB in the worse ear (0.5, 1, 2, 4 kHz) and middle-ear dysfunction as abnormal tympanometric peak height (1.4 mmho) or width (110 daPa).


Hearing loss, present in 5.9% (95% CI: 5.01%, 7.00%) of subjects, was associated with early childhood stunting (OR: 1.64; 95% CI: 1.10, 1.45), underweight (OR: 1.70; 95% CI: 1.18, 2.44) and wasting by BMIAZ (OR: 1.88; 95% CI: 1.19, 2.97) and MUACAZ (OR: 2.14; 95% CI: 1.47, 3.12). Abnormal tympanometry, affecting 16.6% (95% CI: 15.06%, 18.18%), was associated with underweight (OR: 1.46; 95% CI: 1.16, 1.84) and wasting by BMIAZ (OR: 1.80; 95% CI: 1.32, 2.46) and MUACAZ (OR: 1.42; 95% CI: 1.10, 1.84), but not stunting (OR: 1.18; 95% CI: 0.93, 1.49) in early childhood. Highest ORs were observed for subjects with both hearing loss and abnormal tympanometry, ranging from 1.87 to 2.24 (all lower 95% CI >1.00).


Early childhood undernutrition is a modifiable risk factor for early adulthood hearing loss.


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