You are what you eat. You’ve probably heard this phrase many times before. Truth is, a healthy diet really can ensure that your body stays in top condition, but like most of us you’re probably unaware of the many other consequences and correlations your diet may have. Have you, for example, ever stopped to think about the role your diet may have in reducing your risk for hearing loss?
You’re most likely familiar with the effects a healthy diet can have on your physical and mental wellbeing: From better heart health, reduced cancer risk and improved gut health to
better mood and even an improved memory. The advantages are manifold. But healthy eating habits may be beneficial in more ways than you may think.
A study published by the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 2019, claimed that women with healthier eating diets had lower rates of hearing loss compared to those with a less healthy diet. Like an expensive car, your body and mind work best, when they get premium fuel. In the same way, the wrong type of fuel can wreak havoc.
So in today’s post, we’re reviewing how hearing loss can occur, what part of your ear may be affected by our diet and what your diet should look like (and what it shouldn’t) to help you prevent hearing loss.
The ear is made of 3 parts, the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear. The inner ear is called the cochlear and it is this part of the ear that houses the hearing organ. The cochlea is live and filled with different types of fluid. The balance of the chemicals in these fluids is essential to the function of the ear.
Even the slightest changes to the fluid, the blood supply that provides nutrients to the cochlea and changes in our diet may damage the cochlea, causing hearing loss. As such, your overall cardiac health may be linked to how well or how poorly you hear.
High cholesterol diets can increase your risk of heart disease, cancer and chronic disease. But can it cause hearing loss? Research suggests it can. High cholesterol levels can cause a build-up of the fatty deposits in the blood vessels of your body. This build-up is called ‘plaque’ and sits inside the walls of your blood vessels which can restrict the blood supply to vital organs, including the cochlear.
The cochlea contains a web of delicate blood vessels that provide stability and nutrients. The difficulty in assessing the extent to which the blood vessels are affected is the location of the cochlea itself. It is deeply embedded in the temporal bone.
This makes the diagnosis of hearing loss or viewing the blood vessel damage very challenging. If you suffer from high coronary or heart disease and are worried about your hearing, contact your local, trusted audiologist and schedule a comprehensive hearing test today.
Research also suggests that tinnitus sufferers on a low-fat diet generally experience less disturbance from their tinnitus compared to those on a high-fat diet.
Salt adds so much joy to your food, but may also cause anguish to your body when used in excess. About a teaspoon or 5 grams of salt, a day is considered optimal. Australians, however, often consume twice as much salt than they need. Diets high in sodium are associated with high blood pressure, a risk factor for kidney and cardiovascular disease.
If your blood pressure is too high, it puts an unnecessary strain on your blood vessels and organs such as your heart, brain, and even eyes and ears. Considering the tiny blood vessels of the ear, any changes to the blood supply caused by spikes in blood pressure can result in a permanent hearing loss.
Click here to find out why diabetics are twice as likely to suffer from hearing loss!
We’ve mentioned that the reduction of salt and fat in your diet can help reduce your risk for hearing loss, but what else can you do to support your hearing health? Research suggests that adding the following vitamins and minerals to your diet may help to keep hearing loss at bay!
|Potassium||Potatoes, lima beans, tomatoes, spinach, apricots, raisins, bananas, melons, oranges, yogurt and low-fat milk|
|Folic Acid||Fortified breakfast cereal, liver, spinach, broccoli and asparagus|
|Omega 3||Flaxseed oil, krill oil, salmon, soybean oil, walnuts, sardines|
|Zinc||Beef, pork and dark-meat chicken, cashews, almonds, peanuts, beans, split peas, lentils, oysters – and dark chocolate|
|Magnesium||Bananas, artichokes, tomatoes, potatoes, spinach and broccoli|
Calcium is the body’s building block for bones and encourages bone growth and formation. Since the ear houses the 3 smallest bones in the body, the incus, stapes and the malleus, your hearing may benefit from your calcium intake. When the tiny bones of the ear are healthy, the risk of hearing loss caused by damage to these structures is reduced. Calcium is also found in the fluid of the inner ear, the cochlea, and encourages optimal function of the hearing organ.
Potassium is responsible for regulating the amount of fluid in your blood and body tissue. As mentioned above, the cochlea is filled with different types of fluid. In a healthy ear, these should be rich in potassium. It plays an important role in translating the sounds we hear into electrical impulses that the brain can understand. Naturally, when there are changes to the fluid of the cochlea, such as a drop in potassium, it may result in hearing loss.
Studies have shown that a diet rich in potassium decreases the risk of hearing loss. As you age, the amount of potassium in your bodies drops, which may increase the likelihood and severity of hearing loss as you get older. Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet rich in potassium may be beneficial to many aspects of your health and can positively affect your hearing.
This wonder vitamin plays an active role in keeping our immune system strong. This greatly reduces the chances of catching viruses, which is one of many possible causes of hearing loss. Having a strong immune response could help protect your ears from hearing loss brought on through illness and help the body fight intruders. You can support a healthy immune system with a diet that includes a good amount of zinc.
Folic acid is yet another vital building block in your body. It helps form new cells and to maintain a steady growth of cells in the inner ear. It also prevents damage to the DNA of our cells and promotes healthy bodily functions.
Low folic acid levels have been linked to an increased risk of hearing loss. Studies examining the causes of sudden hearing loss (SSHL) found that “folate levels were found to be significantly lower in SSHL patients than [in those without hearing loss]”. It appears that a diet high in folic acid, may promote a healthy cell function and in doing so, reduces the risk for developing hearing loss.
Magnesium is a nutrient that has many functions in the body. It aids nerve and muscle function, as well as blood sugar level and blood pressure regulation, amongst other things. A drop in magnesium levels can ‘suffocate’ the cochlea. This happens because the blood vessels shrink as a result of magnesium deficiency, halting the delivery of oxygen to the inner ear. The resulting damage can lead to sudden, permanent hearing loss.
Studies have demonstrated that the administration of magnesium in individuals exposed to excessive noise (in combination with vitamin A, E and C) can reduce the amount of damage to the delicate hair cells in the cochlea and reduce the measured hearing loss. The scientists behind this research suggest that magnesium forms a protective layer over the hair cells, making them stronger and reducing the likelihood of hearing loss. It is assumed that a healthy intake of magnesium can help stimulate and encourage a healthy hearing.
It is well known that Omega 3 has excellent anti-inflammatory properties, but how does this help our hearing? A recent study which monitored the hearing health of its participants over a five year period showed that those who ate fish at least twice a week were 40 per cent less likely to have hearing loss compared to people who ate fish less than once a week. Scientists still argue why this is the case.
By looking after your body and loading your diet with a well-balanced array of healthy foods, you can do your part to keep your hearing health in check. Whilst there is no one magical nutrient responsible for ‘super hearing’, when you nourish your body with a good balance of vitamins and minerals, your hearing will be better off in the long run and can work to its optimal capacity.
We recommend consulting with your GP before adding any vitamins or supplements to your diet to improve your hearing. If you’re worried about your hearing health and would like to schedule an appointment with a trusted audiologist near you, get in touch with our friendly team today. Book your appointment online or give us a call on 1300 736 702.