The benefits of healthy eating on physical and mental health are commonly emphasized. But healthy eating is also valuable for hearing! Hearing health is integral to overall wellness and typically overlooked. Impaired hearing is one of the most pervasive medical conditions people experience. There are useful ways people can reduce their risk of developing hearing and enhance their hearing health. One way is to incorporate nutrients that are great for your auditory system!
Hearing loss is the third most common chronic health issue in the U.S. Impacting nearly 1 in 5 people, over 40 million people have some degree of impaired hearing. A variety of factors can contribute to hearing loss including:
- Existing Medical Conditions: like hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, strokes can contribute to the development of hearing loss.
- Exposure to Loud Noise: one time or consistent exposure to loud noise can damage the hair cells in the inner ear. These hair cells help translate and process soundwaves. Loud noise can cause these hair cells to lose sensitivity and/or die which produces hearing loss.
- Aging: known as presbycusis, age related hearing loss becomes increasingly common with age. Nearly 25% of adults ages 65-74 have hearing loss, this doubles to 50% for people ages 75 and older.
Other causes of hearing loss include head injuries, specific medications, and genetic history. Hearing loss can be mild to severe, resulting in a reduced ability to hear and process sound. This can create significant issues in daily life that are challenging to navigate. Fortunately, hearing loss is a preventable condition! One way you can prioritize your hearing health is through your diet.
Link Between Diet & Hearing
Research shows that there is a correlation between a healthful diet and healthy hearing. In a significant 2019 study, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (Boston) investigated this link. The study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, assessed the hearing of 3,135 participants throughout the U.S. in addition to collecting information on their diets. Researchers found that the people who practiced healthy diets were:
- 30% less likely to develop mid frequency hearing loss
- 25% less likely to develop high frequency hearing loss
These significant findings reveal that people following healthy diets had a substantially lower risk of developing hearing loss. Researchers also found that the dietary patterns of the participants in the study closely resembled three commonly recommended diets:
- DASH: Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension
- AMED: Alternate Mediterranean
- AHEI-2010: Alternate Healthy Index-2010
These approaches to eating emphasize a few key principles: high intake of plant-based foods (fruits and vegetables) and whole grains, elimination of processed foods (and ingredients like refined sugars), moderate intake of meat as well as alcohol. These healthy ways of eating provide the body with rich nutrients that boost health, including hearing health.
5 Nutrients that Boost Hearing Health
There are several nutrients that contribute to lowering healthy blood pressure, maintaining healthy blood flow, and energy to nurture the body. A few nutrients that are great for hearing health include the following:
- Magnesium: helps protect the hair cells in the inner ear which help process soundwaves. Magnesium rich foods: artichoke, broccoli, potatoes, asparagus, leafy greens (spinach, kale), figs, and avocado
- Potassium: helps maintain healthy fluid levels in the inner ear, which is critical to translating sound for the brain to further process and assign meaning to. Potassium rich foods: bananas, oranges, potatoes, and spinach.
- Omega 3: known to help prevent inflammation and lower blood pressure. 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. Foods rich in folic acid include: beans, lentils, and asparagus.
- Zinc: helps with the metabolization of fats, carbs, and proteins. Zinc also supports the immune system, growth, and healing wounds. This is helpful for fighting bacteria which can cause infection or irritation in the ears. Zinc rich foods: meat (beef, pork, chicken), lentils, peanuts, shellfish, rice, eggs
Eating a well-balanced diet can enhance your health and improve your quality of life. By integrating nutrient rich foods, you can improve your hearing health which is integral to overall health and wellness.
Another important part of your overall health is an annual hearing test. If you are concerned about changes in your hearing, contact us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing test!