Parents, take note. You need to keep a check on your child's diet as a new study suggests that young adults who were undernourished as preschool children were approximately twice as likely to suffer from hearing loss.
The findings of the study also suggest that nutritional interventions could help prevent hearing loss.
"Our findings should help elevate hearing loss as a still-neglected public health burden, and one that nutrition interventions in early childhood might help prevent," said co-author of the study, Keith West Jr., Professor from the Johns Hopkins University.
According to the researchers, hearing loss is the fourth leading cause of disability worldwide, and an estimated 80 per cent of affected individuals live in the low- and middle-income countries.
For the study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers analysed the relationship between the hearing of more than 2,200 young adults and their nutritional levels as children 16 years earlier.
All study participants had been part of a nutrition trial conducted between 1989 and 1991 that collected information to assess their nutritional status.
The results of the auditory tests showed that young adults who were stunted in childhood were nearly twice as likely to show signs of hearing loss.
Stunting, or being too short for one's age, is a chronic condition of undernourishment that often starts before birth, which is a critical time for the development of auditory function.
The researchers also found that participants who were too thin as children were also at a twofold risk of hearing loss.
They suspect that impeded inner ear development caused by undernutrition -- especially in the womb -- may contribute to the increased risk of hearing loss found in the study.
"We now have evidence that addressing this nutritional burden might also prevent hearing loss later in life," West added.