Common childhood infections, such as tonsillitis and ear infections, may lead to hearing loss later in life, according to recent research from charity Action on Hearing Loss and Newcastle University as part of the ongoing 1947 Newcastle Thousand Families Study.

The Newcastle Thousand Families Study monitored 1142 Newcastle-born babies from 1947 to the present day, measuring their health, growth and development. Now in their sixties a quarter of them have had their hearing tested.

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.

‘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.’

Infections such as tonsillitis, ear infections and multiple episodes of bronchitis or other severe respiratory infections during the first year of life were linked to hearing loss when people were over 60. These links persisted, even when factors known to influence hearing, such as a noisy working environment, having an ear operation, gender and socio-economic backgrounds, were taken into account.

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