Some amount of hearing loss is inevitable as we age. By age 75, one out of every two people has hearing loss. Our hearing becomes damaged through a variety of ways, from overexposure to loud noise to chronic disease to certain medical treatments to the natural aging process itself. Thankfully, not all hearing loss is inevitable –our lifestyles can be modified to correct for certain preventable risk factors. Current research shows that eating a healthy diet is correlated with less hearing loss as we age.
The Link Between Healthy Diets and Hearing Loss
Eating a healthy diet has long been known to help keep our bodies healthy, preventing many chronic diseases that lead to other co-morbidities. Type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease are two such known diseases. When our overall health is better and we suffer less disease, our hearing benefits as well. Diabetes and hypertension both can cause tinnitus, or ringing in the ears.
In a recent study, investigators from Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that eating a healthy diet may reduce the risk of acquired hearing loss. Using data collected in the Nurses’ Health Study II Conservation of Hearing Study (CHEARS), the researchers examined three-year changes in hearing sensitivities in women. They found that the women who more closely adhered to a healthful dietary pattern had a substantially lower risk of decline in hearing sensitivity. The team’s findings are published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.1
In the Brigham and Women’s hospital study, decline in hearing was found to be almost 25-30 percent lower in the participants that adhered to healthy diets compared with women who did not adhere to a healthful diet. The research team found that the odds of a decline in mid-frequency hearing sensitivities were almost 25 to 30 percent lower (depending on the frequency range) among the women eating a healthy diet.
Another recent study2 concluded that diet is a critical factor to prevent coronary heart diseases, and as such, may stop or even reverse hearing loss.
Foods That Can Help Hearing
Three specific healthy diet patterns were examined in the CHEARS study. Each encourages eating similar diets that are rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meats and omega-3 fatty acids. Foods to improve hearing include:
- Alternate Mediterranean diet (AMED) – fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, legumes, olive oil and drinking only a moderate amount of alcohol
- Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) – fruits, vegetables, nuts, lean meats, fish and low-fat dairy
- 2010 Alternative Healthy Eating Index (AHEI-2010) – vegetables, fruits, whole grains
Previous research has shown certain nutrients are also helpful in the fight against acquired hearing loss and tinnitus, such as:
- Carotenoids beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin – found in squash, carrots, oranges and other fruits and vegetables
- Folate – legumes, leafy greens and other foods
- Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids – seafood and fish
Foods That Can Hurt Hearing
Diets rich in carbohydrates, especially sugars and foods and drinks with highly concentrated fructose, have been shown to lead to a higher glycemic index in adults. Adults with a higher glycemic load and overall higher carbohydrate levels have been shown to be at an increased risk of hearing loss. Other foods to be avoided include processed foods, sodium and certain fats, such as animal fat.
Vitamins and Minerals That Help Hearing
Eating a balanced diet free of processed foods that also includes vitamins from whole foods is the best way to ensure enough vitamins and minerals are consumed for optimal hearing health. Supplements are not regulated by the FDA, and getting these nutrients from food rather than a supplement results in better absorption.
- Vitamins – Foods rich in Vitamins D (broccoli), C (citrus fruit, red bell peppers) and E
- Minerals – potassium, magnesium and zinc are three minerals that may help in the prevention of hearing loss. Note that zinc interacts with antibiotics and diuretics though.
You should always check with your physician before beginning any diet or adding supplements to your diet, as many supplements may interact with certain medications.
If you are experiencing hearing loss, request an appointment at Sonora Hearing Care in Tucson, AZ. Our expert audiologist can recommend a device that’s right for you.
- Prospective Study of Dietary Patterns and Hearing Threshold Decline Sharon G Curhan, Christopher Halpin, Molin Wang, Roland D Eavey, Gary C Curhan American Journal of Epidemiology, kwz223, https://doi.org/10.1093/aje/kwz223 Published: 14 October 2019
- Rosen S., Olin P., Rosen H.V. Dietary prevention of hearing loss. Acta Otolaryngol. 1970;70:242–247. doi: 10.3109/00016487009181884.