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B12 deficiency: Can you hear that? The sign in your hearing signalling low B12 levels

Dr Dawn Harper on signs of vitamin B12 and vitamin D deficiency

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Vitamin B12 is essential for the production of red blood cells and the normal function of the brain and nervous system. B12 deficiency, which is believed to affect one in 50 Britons, can lead to a plethora of complications, ranging in severity. One sign in your hearing warrants prompt treatment.

B12 is a water-soluble compound naturally found in animal foods, such as meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products.

When B12 levels are chronically low – the nerve cells may become irreversibly damaged, which can manifest through walking difficulties, muscle weakness and memory loss.

This nerve damage, however, may also occur in the ears.

Studies have shown that a B12 deficiency can cause the production of myelin – which is the insulate and protective cover that surrounds the nerves.

READ MORE: Vitamin D: Foods to eat to avoid deficiency according to Dr Rupy

When levels of B12 are low, this deficiency can irritate and hamper the function of nerves in the ear.

According to the National Health Service (NHS), tinnitus noises sometimes take on buzzing or ringing sounds.

Sometimes the sounds may sound like hissing, humming, throbbing, and even whooshing noises.

People have even reported hearing music – despite none being played – in some rare instances.

The technical term for this phenomenon is musical hallucination.

Although the condition typically occurs in older adults, the condition has also been linked to vitamin deficiencies, notably of vitamin B12.

The NHS notes: “A lack of vitamin B12 can cause neurological problems, which affect the nervous system.

“As most cases of vitamin B12 deficiency or folate deficiency can be easily and effectively treated, complications are rare.

“But complications can occasionally develop, particularly if you have been deficient in either vitamin for some time.”

The guidelines in the UK advise having 1.5 micrograms of B12 a day, particularly for those who don’t consume enough vitamin B12 to meet their needs.

Other people may develop an inability to absorb B12, if their stomachs produce lower amounts of acid.

The condition can affect people across all age groups, but the older you are, the more likely you are to suffer.

Weight loss surgery has been identified as a risk factor preventing the absorption of B12.

The other practice identified as culprits behind a large number of B12 deficiencies is veganism, which involves cutting out all animal-based products.

Researchers urge people in both these groups to take B12 supplements in order to avoid peripheral neuropathy, which causes permanent numbers in the hands and feet.

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