A well-balanced diet is one of the most critical factors in maintaining good health. Doctors tell us to cut back on sugars and fats and incorporate more whole foods into our diets as we get older. Heart disease and arthritis are the two most common medical conditions in the US; both conditions can be managed with changes in our diet.
With hearing loss as the third most common medical condition, it may not surprise that our diet could also ensure healthy hearing. Several studies show that certain foods could help boost our hearing health.
We know antioxidants are essential in a healthy diet, especially cancer prevention. The American Hearing Research Foundation reports that “free radicals that form during and after noise exposure” could lead to “noise-induced constriction of blood flow to the inner ear.”
Recently, Dr. Colleen Le Prell, a researcher at the Kresge Hearing Institute at the University of Michigan, conducted a study in which she gave guinea pigs high doses of vitamins A, C, and E, as well as magnesium, both before and after exposure to high levels of noise. Over several days, Vitamins A, C, and E and magnesium were discovered to function together to prevent cell damage and that “high doses of certain antioxidants reduced noise-induced hearing loss in animals when taken both before and after loud noise.” In other words, Dr. Le Prell found that antioxidants in foods rich in vitamins A, C, and E and magnesium could help to reduce the impact of free radicals on our hearing after exposure to loud sounds.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Our inner ears are critical to the auditory process. Within our inner ears, tiny hair cells translate sound waves into electric impulses sent to our brains to be registered as sounds. Damage to the inner ear environment has been known to cause sensorineural hearing loss. The natural processes of aging have also been linked to sensorineural hearing loss.
How do we keep our inner ears healthy? The secret could lie in a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Because our inner ear environments depend on a healthy supply of oxygenated blood to function correctly, omega-3 fatty acids become an essential element of our health. According to Dr. Joe McDermott, AuD, Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory effects, which help to strengthen the blood vessels in the inner ear, preventing hearing loss.
In an interview with The Daily Sentinel, Dr. McDermott says that “people who eat two or more portions of fish per week are 42% less likely to develop age-related hearing loss compared with those who do not eat fish regularly.” Fish such as salmon, tuna, and sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Dr. McDermott also notes that folate insufficiency has been linked to a 35 percent increased risk of hearing loss in persons over 50. As such, adding leafy greens that are rich in folic acid might provide more protection to your ears.
Are We What We Eat?
Foods that support better hearing health tend to support your overall health. A diet high in antioxidants, folic acid, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins A, C, E, B12, magnesium, and zinc protects your inner ear from damaging oxidation, prevents free radical damage, and improves blood flow.
Add rich leafy greens, spinach, bell peppers, avocado, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, fennel, collard greens, and romaine lettuce to your diet. These vegetables provide a high level of folic acid. For omega-3 fatty acids, add salmon, tuna, and sardines to your diet.
Vitamins and minerals may be trickier – how do we know exactly where to get them, aside from a multivitamin pill? Colorful vegetables and fruits are packed with vitamins A, C, and E. Bananas, potatoes, artichokes, and broccoli provide a healthy dose of magnesium, which helps prevent hearing loss. As for zinc, treat yourself once or twice a week to chocolate or oysters.
Are you concerned about hearing loss? For a comprehensive hearing test, contact us today!