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Being proactive about your wellness can enhance your quality of life. Maintaining a healthy diet is key to feeling the best you can. A healthy diet is an important preventative measure and can reduce the risk of various medical conditions including hearing loss. Hearing loss is a common health concern many people are navigating today. It is important to know that anyone can experience impairment to their hearing, there are numerous causes, and that hearing loss can significant impact all aspects of your life.
It is commonly assumed that hearing loss is an inevitable reality of the aging process. However, recent studies show that impairment to hearing may not be an automatic occurrence as one ages and that eating a healthy diet can lower the risk of hearing loss.
How does what we eat impact our hearing?
There are numerous causes of hearing loss including family history, environmental circumstances, and various medical conditions. Medical conditions such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and hypertension can contribute to the development of hearing loss. Eating a balanced diet can reduce the risk of these chronic conditions by helping to maintain a robust immune system, healthy blood flow, arteries, and veins. A nutritious diet helps to maintain healthy cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and prevents inflammation.
What does the research say?
A critical study conducted in 2019 at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (Boston, Massachusetts); found that people following a healthy diet had a substantially lower risk of developing hearing loss. The study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, assessed the hearing of 3,135 women across a range of geographical sites. Hearing healthcare professionals measured the softest sounds that can be heard by these participants (in both ears) over the course of three years. Their findings include:
- Women following a healthful diet were 30% less likely to develop mid frequency hearing loss
- These same participants were also 25% less likely to develop high frequency hearing loss
Dr. Sharon Curhan, a physician and epidemiologist in the Brigham’s Channing Division of Network Medicine, expressed surprise by the high number of participants who experienced a decline in their hearing during a short amount of time. Also, pointing to the greater impact, she stated, “the association between diet and hearing sensitivity decline encompassed frequencies that are critical for speech understanding”.
What kinds of diets reduce the risk of hearing loss?
The participants in the study were closely adhering to the following diets:
- DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension): focuses on lowering or maintaining healthy blood pressure by eating foods that are low in sodium and high in specific nutrients that contribute to lowering blood pressure. This includes calcium, potassium, and magnesium. The DASH diet encourages vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy, conservative amounts of whole grains (in addition to nuts, fish, and poultry).
- AMED (Alternate Mediterranean): emphasizes a high intake of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and fish. AMED recommends eating dairy in moderation and not eating refined sugar, grains, oils and processed food.
- AHEI-2010 (Alternate Healthy Index-2010): this diet focuses on specific foods that provide the nutrients key to preventing chronic diseases. This includes vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
These diets were found to be associated with reducing the risk of hearing loss. But what specific nutrients and foods are important?
Nutrients Important to Healthy Hearing
Research and findings from previous studies have suggested that specific vitamins and minerals are important to a healthy auditory system.
- Magnesium: research suggests that magnesium helps protect the hair cells in the inner ear which are crucial in the process of making sense of the sound you are absorbing. Foods rich in magnesium include: artichoke, broccoli, and potatoes.
- Potassium: helps maintain healthy fluid levels in the inner ear, which is critical to translating sound for the brain to understand. Potassium rich foods include bananas, oranges, potatoes, and spinach.
- Omega 3: known to help prevent inflammation, low blood pressure, and heart disease. Foods rich in omega 3 include: fish, flaxseed, and soybeans.
- Folic Acid: contributes to overall healthiness by generating and maintaining cells, including the cells in the ear, which allow us to hear. Foods rich in folic acid include: beans, lentils, and asparagus.
As mentioned above, there are many causes and contributing factors to impaired hearing. A healthy diet can reduce the risk of hearing loss and help you feel your very best!
At Encore Hearing, we help you hear your best with comprehensive hearing health services. Contact us today to schedule a consultation!