We tend to be overly familiar with the many benefits of eating healthy. But did you know that a healthy diet can also reduce the risk of hearing loss? Growing research shows that people who follow a healthy diet are at lower risk for developing various medical conditions including impaired hearing.
Hearing loss is the third most common chronic health condition, affecting over 40 million people. A common misconception is that impairment to hearing is a natural part of the aging process. In reality, hearing loss is experienced by people of all ages and can be caused by existing medical conditions, environmental exposure to loud noise, and genetic history. 90% of people who have hearing loss, have permanent hearing loss which means that it can be treated but not cured. Much research explores ways that can reduce the risk of hearing loss, this includes a healthy diet!
Studies on Diet and Hearing Loss
Eating healthy is a key way that we receive the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that sustain our bodies. A healthy diet supports a strong immune system, healthy blood flow, arteries, bones etc. This can significantly help to prevent the development of various medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, obesity, and diabetes. There is a correlation between these medical conditions and hearing loss.
There are several studies that show that a healthy diet has positive outcomes on hearing health. In the most recent study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 2019, researchers investigated diet and hearing loss. Conducted at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, this study consisted of 3,135 participants across 19 different sites throughout the United States. Researchers analyzed 20 years of dietary intake information that was collected every four years from 1991 to 2011 in addition to results from hearing tests conducted by audiologists over three years. The findings show that people following a healthy diet were less likely to develop hearing loss, specifically:
- 30% less likely to develop mid frequency hearing loss
- 25% less likely to develop high frequency hearing loss
Discussing the findings, Sharon Curhan, lead author of the study as well as a physician and epidemiologist, commented: “the association between diet and hearing sensitivity decline encompassed frequencies that are critical for speech understanding”. This highlights that the lack of a healthy diet caused hearing loss that is important for processing speech.
Researchers in the 2019 study found that the diets of the participants who practiced healthy eating closely resembled well known dietary recommendations. Though we often perceive diets as a strictly defined regimen, and the most popular diets are such, the diets in this study are more so general approaches to eating. They included:
- DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension)
- AMED (Alternate Mediterranean)
- AHEI-2010 (Alternate Healthy Index-2010)
These approaches to eating are quite similar, emphasizing a plant based and whole foods diet. The general characteristics are:
- Increased intake of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes
- Elimination of all processed foods
- Limited intake of dairy and meat
This general approach to eating provides the nutrients that the body needs to maintain great health. It also reduces (or totally eliminates) the harmful additives and chemicals that are part of processed foods.
Nutrients and Hearing Health
A healthy diet nourishes and sustains the many internal systems our bodies rely on to live and navigate the world. There are several nutrients that are abundant in the diets previously mentioned which are specifically beneficial for or hearing health including the following:
- Magnesium: provides protection for the thousands of hair cells in the cochlea (inner ear) which help translate soundwaves into electrical signals for the brain to process. Magnesium is found in: cabbage, seafood, avocado, kale, black beans, and chickpeas etc.
- Potassium: helps maintain balanced levels of fluid in the inner ear which do the same work as the hair cells. Potassium can be found in: broccoli, potatoes, mushrooms, and spinach.
- Omega 3: helps reduce overall inflammation and contributes to low blood pressure. This helps maintain healthy blood flow throughout the ear, allowing the various parts of the ears to work effectively. Omega 3 can be found in: chia seeds, flaxseed, fish, and tofu.
Maintaining a healthy diet has numerous benefits including reducing the risk of medical conditions including hearing loss! To learn more about hearing loss or to schedule an appointment, contact us today.