What you eat plays a major role in overall health and wellness. We know the benefits commonly associated with healthier eating patterns: more energy, boosts the immune system, enhances digestive system, supports muscles and bones etc. Healthier diets also reduce the risk of developing health conditions like heart disease and diabetes. Additionally, research shows a link between diet and hearing health, revealing that healthy diets can lower the risk of experiencing impaired hearing. This is critical because hearing loss is a permanent medical condition so identifying and mitigating risk factors can serve as an effective intervention!
Link Between Diet & Hearing Health
Extensive research shows a correlation between diet and hearing health. Studies have identified diet as one of few modifiable risk factors for age-related hearing loss, known as presbycusis. This includes a major study published in 2019 in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Researchers at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital explored the link between specific dietary patterns and the risk of hearing loss by conducting a cohort study that spanned 22 years. The study included 81,818 participants who had their diet assessed every 4 years and provided information regarding their hearing health. Findings from this study include that participants following healthy diets (compared to those who were not) were:
- 25% less likely to develop high-frequency hearing loss
- 30% less likely to develop mid-frequency hearing loss
The lead author of the study, Dr. Sharon Curhan, stated: “These findings strongly suggest that the development of hearing loss with age may not be inevitable and that eating a healthy diet may be helpful in reducing the risk.”
Researchers and experts suggest that a healthier diet can help protect hearing health by supporting cardiac health. Healthful diets reduce the risk of developing conditions like cardiovascular disease and diabetes which contribute to inflammation, damage of arteries and veins, impact blood flow etc. Inflammation as well as changes in oxygen and blood pressure levels can impact the inner ear, responsible for absorbing and processing incoming sound information.
Nutrients that Boost Hearing Health
Healthy diets provide the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that help sustain the body and protect against damage. When researchers examined the healthy diets participants in the 2019 study were following, they closely aligned with established recommended ways of eating: Alternate Mediterranean Diet (AMED), Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), Alternative Healthy Eating Index (AHEI-2010). These dietary patterns prioritize fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and lean meats. They also emphasize avoiding processed foods, moderate intake of meats, reduced consumption of alcohol, reduced intake of dairy, and limiting sugar as well as salt and animal fat. These diets are also rich in specific nutrients that boost hearing health including the following:
- Magnesium: helps maintain healthy nerves, muscles, and immune systems. It also helps protect the hair cells in the inner ear which convert soundwaves into electrical signals for the brain. Foods high in magnesium include potatoes, spinach, tomatoes, and artichokes.
- Potassium: helps regulate fluid throughout the body including in the inner ear. The fluid in the inner ear works with the hair cells to translate sound waves which then go to the brain. Foods high in potassium include sweet potatoes, beets, bananas, and oranges.
- Folic Acid: helps with maintaining the healthiness of cells as well as supports the generating of new cells. Foods high in folic acid include spinach, broccoli, asparagus, and nuts.
- Zinc: supports the immune system, cell growth, and healing. Foods high in zinc include lentils, beans, cashews, and beef.
These nutrients support hearing health by boosting the immune system, blood flow, nerves, and cells. You can incorporate more of these nutrients into your daily eating habits by starting with fruits and vegetables. Plant-based eating offers a range of nutrients and vitamins that can transform your health!
Prioritize Your Hearing Health
Taking the time to evaluate your eating habits and making the necessary adjustment to incorporate beneficial nutrients can help protect your hearing health. In addition, we recommend getting your hearing tested which is a great way to identify any changes and intervene early. Schedule your appointment for a hearing test with a hearing healthcare provider today! Treating hearing loss not only transforms hearing but also overall health and wellness.