Illness ‘can hit late-life hearing’

Published: Monday 20th October 2014 by The News Editor

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Common childhood illnesses such as tonsillitis and ear infections can cause hearing loss later in life, according to results from a famous study.

The Newcastle Thousand Families Study monitored 1,142 Newcastle-born babies from 1947 to the present day, measuring their health, growth and development.

A quarter of the participants, who are now in their 60s, have had their hearing tested and the results show those who had infections as children were more likely to have hearing loss.

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 60s. Reducing childhood infection rates may help prevent hearing loss later in life.

“This study shows the importance of the Newcastle birth cohorts, with the study initially focusing on childhood infections. The study is nearly 70 years old and continues to make a major contribution to understanding health conditions, which is only possible through the continued contribution of cohort members.”

Tonsillitis, ear infections and multiple episodes of bronchitis occurring in the first year of life were linked to the condition.

Dr Ralph Holme, Head of Biomedical Research at Action on Hearing Loss, said: “Hearing loss affects as many as one in six people across the UK and 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.

“Hearing loss can have a big impact on a person’s life, isolating them from family and friends, and has been linked to other health conditions like depression and dementia. These findings remind us that it’s never too early to think about protecting your hearing.”

Planning for the study began in the 1930s when Newcastle had a high infant mortality rate compared with the rest of the UK.

The start of the study was delayed by the Second World War, but got under way in May 1947 when recruitment began for a one-year study of health in infancy.

Published: Monday 20th October 2014 by The News Editor

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