Eat These Foods to Help Fight Hearing Loss

Research shows that in addition to lifestyle changes, what we eat may play a role in preventing or slowing hearing loss—but what exactly do we need to eat to protect our hearing?

Hearing Loss: Listen Up

Hearing loss: It’s a condition usually associated with aging. It is the third most common chronic health issue in the United States—nearly twice the number of people who report diabetes or cancer suffer from it.

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders estimates that one in three Americans between the ages of 65 and 74 has hearing loss and that about half the people older than 75 have trouble hearing.

According to a 2016 study in Brazil, hearing loss can also occur due to other causes such as noise damage, exposure to medications that are toxic to the ear, disorders of the ear, and genetic predisposition.

It is also “a growing problem among young people,” with some studies finding as many as nearly 18 percent of teens with measurable hearing loss, said Barbara Kelley, the executive director of the Hearing Loss Association of America, in an email to The Epoch Times. Kelley said teen hearing loss is likely noise-induced hearing loss “due in part to loud music, and earbuds and headphones.”

People of all ages can help protect their ears from hearing loss by avoiding sounds that are loud and long-lasting. Loud music, concerts, leaf blowers and mowers, and other similar loud noises can cause permanent hearing loss. Reducing the amount of time you’re exposed to loud noise, and using ear protection like ear plugs or muffs, can help protect your hearing and decrease the amount of hearing you might lose as you age.

In addition to limiting noise exposure, research suggests that the consumption of certain foods and supplements may also help protect hearing and delay hearing loss.

Nutrients May Help Reduce Hearing Loss, Either Aging- or Noise-Induced

Although age-related hearing loss is often considered inevitable, there is a complex variety of factors that contributes to hearing loss which may be modified to help reduce the risk.

“There are several lines of evidence that suggest that dietary intake of certain nutrients is related to the risk of hearing loss,” said Dr. Sharon Curhan in an email to The Epoch Times. Curhan is a physician and epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and director of the Conservation of Hearing Study (CHEARS).

Curhan and her colleagues found that a higher intake of specific nutrients and certain foods, such as the carotenoids beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin, folate, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, and fish, are associated with a lower risk of hearing loss.

Curhan said her team also discovered that vitamin C may also help improve blood flow within the ear.

However, sometimes too much of a good thing can be bad. “In our studies, we were surprised to find that very high vitamin C intake (so high that this is primarily achieved by taking supplements) was associated with a higher risk of hearing loss.”

Exposure to loud noises causes the cells of the inner ear to create free radicals, causing damage within the ear and hearing loss. Researchers at the University of Michigan hypothesized that vitamins A, C, and E, plus magnesium could prevent hearing loss by reducing the number of free radicals and noise-induced restriction of blood flow to the inner ear.

Researchers conducted a study to investigate whether pretreatment with vitamins A, C, and E, plus magnesium ahead of exposure to loud noises would help mitigate noise-induced hearing loss. The results showed that the combination of vitamins A, C, and E, plus magnesium, blocked nearly 80 percent of noise-induced hearing loss in guinea pigs.

This same antioxidant and magnesium combination was tested in a study of Swedish military personnel who had service-related noise exposure. The results were encouraging but no conclusions regarding the potential protection of the ear were drawn. A subsequent study on humans was undertaken. Participants were given the same four micronutrients ahead of noise exposure; however, the supplement did not have any effect on noise-induced changes in hearing.

Folic acid may also have a role in preventing hearing loss. Studies have linked hearing loss to folate deficiency and high levels of homocysteine, an amino acid. Folate, along with vitamins B12 and B6, break down homocysteine to form other chemicals your body needs. High homocysteine levels may also mean you have a vitamin deficiency and increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, and dementia.

Research shows that folate supplementation can potentially lower the risk of developing age-related hearing loss by lowering levels of homocysteine.

Omega-3 fatty acids are another tool in the arsenal against hearing loss. A 2014 study conducted by Curhan and her colleagues showed that regular fish consumption and higher intake of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are associated with a lower risk of hearing loss. This protective nature of omega-3 fatty acids has been replicated in other studies, such as the Brazilian study mentioned, suggesting that it may play an important role in the prevention of hearing loss.

Eating for Your Ears

Although supplements are available over-the-counter, Curhan says there is currently “insufficient evidence” to recommend specific supplements to prevent hearing loss. She says the best way to meet dietary requirements to help prevent hearing loss is through foods rich in nutrients, since these foods may also have health benefits beyond just hearing loss prevention.

“We found that eating an overall healthy diet, such as a diet that resembles the Mediterranean diet or the DASH diet, is associated with a lower risk of hearing loss,” she said.

So what should you eat to keep your ears and hearing in top shape?

Vitamin A-rich foods, including:

  • Green, leafy green vegetables
  • Orange and yellow vegetables
  • Red bell pepper
  • Milk
  • Beef liver
  • Fish oil

You can find vitamin C in the following foods:

  • Red pepper
  • Citrus fruit
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Strawberries
  • Broccoli
  • Cantaloupe

Vitamin E-rich foods, such as:

  • Wheat germ oil
  • Almonds
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Pine nuts
  • Avocado
  • Peanut butter
  • Fish

Magnesium can be found in these foods:

  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Almonds
  • Spinach
  • Cashews
  • Peanuts
  • Black beans

Get your folate from these items:

  • Dark green, leafy vegetables
  • Beans
  • Peanuts
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Fresh fruits, fruit juices
  • Whole grains
  • Liver
  • Seafood
  • Eggs

Omega-3 fatty acids:

  • Fish
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts
  • Green, leafy vegetables
  • Oils (e.g. canola, flaxseed, cod liver)
Heather Lightner is a medical writer for The Epoch Times. She is a registered nurse and board-certified case manager.
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