We all know the importance of eating a balanced diet. Ensuring that we’re getting a variety of fruits, vegetables and proteins in our diet can help protect our health. Think of the expression, “You are what you eat.” The quantity as well as quality of the food that we eat on a daily basis can impact our overall health. This includes the health of your ears.
But can a healthy diet lower the risk of hearing loss?
In 2013, the International Journal of Audiology showed that people who consumed better quality calories had better hearing.
How Can a Healthy Diet Lower the Risk of Hearing Loss?
As we age, the likelihood of developing impaired hearing rises. Estimates show that approximately 1 in 3 Americans between 65 – 74 have hearing loss. This rises to 1 in 2 adults over the age of 75.
It’s a common misconception that hearing loss is a natural part of the aging process. Like other parts of our body, our ears can change over time. Age-related hearing loss is known as presbycusis. However, there are a number of potential causes for hearing loss as we age. These include:
- Exposure to loud noise
- Diseases / medical conditions
- Genetic predisposition
Medical conditions like high blood pressure have been linked to hearing loss. How we eat can help prevent high blood pressure or other inflammatory conditions. In turn, this can help protect your hearing.
To help answer the question of how what you eat affects your hearing, a research team analyzed questionnaire responses from about 71,000 women who took part in the Nurses’ Health Study II between 1991 and 2013. The study, led by Drs. Gary C. Curhan and Sharon G. Curhan of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and supported by National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) and National Cancer Institute (NCI) found links between diet and hearing.
“Interestingly, we observed that those following an overall healthy diet had a lower risk of moderate or worse hearing loss,” says Sharon Curhan. “Eating well contributes to overall good health, and it may also be helpful in reducing the risk of hearing loss.”
Simply put, good nutrition can benefit your body and mind, which in turn could lower your risks of developing hearing loss. Let’s explore the foods you should consider reducing or increasing.
Foods To Consider Reducing
- Salt can increase blood pressure, restrict blood vessels, and therefore restrict blood flow to the ears and brain. Processed and canned foods often have high salt content, so make sure to check the nutritional information.
- Excess sugar in the blood supply could damage nerves and blood vessels. A subsequent impact could be reduced blood flow and oxygen supply to the ears and brain.
- Trans fat or saturated fat could reduce blood flow. Reducing your intake has several health benefits.
- MSG (monosodium glutamate) is a flavor enhancer found in a lot of pre-packaged and processed food. It is an excitatory neurotransmitter, which means it excites brain neurons and increases the levels of electrical activity in the brain. This includes the auditory cortex, an area of the brain that plays a crucial role in our ability to hear.
Foods To Consider Increasing
- Zinc. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, zinc deficiency is one causation of age-related hearing loss. Increase the zinc in your diet with cashews, dark chocolate, cranberries or beef.
- Magnesium. This nutrient has been shown to help prevent or limit hearing loss due to its neuroprotective and vasodilatory effects. Load your plate with potatoes, pineapple, artichokes, bananas or broccoli.
- Omega 3 and Vitamin D. Both nutrients have been shown to help brain function. Studies show eating fish twice per week can have a 42% lower chance of age-related hearing loss and reduce the risk of persistent tinnitus. Foods rich in omega 3 and vitamin D include sardines, salmon and flaxseed oil.
- Antioxidants and folic acid. These can reduce the number of free radicals in your body (which could damage the delicate tissues in your ears). Foods rich in antioxidants and folic acid include asparagus, nuts, spinach, beans, liver, and broccoli.
- Vitamins C and E. Both vitamins are good for your overall health and reduce your risks of infection. Load up on citrus fruits, broccoli and avocado.
A balanced, healthy diet can help to protect your hearing. In addition, make sure you’re staying on top of your annual hearing assessments. These can help identify any changes to your hearing, which could indicate potential underlying conditions.
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