Ben Squires


Childhood illnesses linked to hearing loss later in life

Childhood illnesses linked to hearing loss later in life

Common childhood illnesses such as tonsillitis and ear infections can cause hearing loss in later life, according to the results of a long-term study.

The Newcastle Thousand Families Study in the UK, which is nearly 70 years old, monitored 1,142 Newcastle-born babies from 1947 to the present day. They measured the health, growth and development of the children throughout their lives.

A quarter of the participants, now in their sixties, had their hearing tested, with the results showing that those who had infections such as tonsillitis, ear infections, multiple episodes of bronchitis or other severe respiratory infections during the first year of life were more likely to have hearing loss later in life.

Dr Mark Pearce, who led the study at the Institute of Health and Society at Newcastle University, said: “Our findings show that those who suffered from infections as a child were more likely to have a hearing loss in their 60’s. Reducing childhood infection rates may help prevent hearing loss later in life.”

These links between childhood illnesses and late-life hearing loss persisted even when other factors known to influence hearing loss, such as noisy working environment, having an ear operation, gender and socio-economic backgrounds, were taken into account.

Dr Ralph Holme, Head of Biomedical Research at Action on Hearing Loss, said hearing loss is “often seen as just another sign of getting old, however the study shows that this is not necessarily the case; illnesses in childhood could have long-lasting consequences for hearing in later life.

He added, “These findings remind us that it’s never too early to think about protecting your hearing.”

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