Does a Healthy Diet Reduce The Risk of Hearing Loss?
Everyone’s heard of the saying, “you are what you eat”. A healthy diet can indeed 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 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. But healthy eating habits may be beneficial in more ways than you may think. A 2019 study by the Brigham and Women’s Hospital claimed that women with healthier eating habits had lower rates of hearing loss.
In today’s post, we’ll investigate this further, identifying how hearing loss can occur, what part of your ear may be affected by your diet, and what your diet should look like to help prevent hearing loss.
How Does Your Diet Impact Your Hearing?
The human ear comprises three parts, the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear. The inner ear is called the cochlea, and it is this part of the ear that houses the hearing organ. The cochlea is filled with different fluids that are essential to the ear’s function.
Changes to the ear’s fluid, blood supply, and 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.
What Diets Contribute to Hearing Loss?
High Cholesterol Diets
High cholesterol diets aren’t the healthiest due to increased risks of heart disease, cancer and chronic diseases. While this isn’t great for our health, can a diet high in cholesterol cause hearing loss?
High cholesterol levels can cause a build-up of the fatty deposits in the blood vessels of your body known as plaque. Plaque coats the walls of your blood vessels which can restrict the blood supply to vital organs, including the cochlea.
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, we recommend you contact your local, trusted audiologist and schedule a comprehensive hearing test today.
Besides hearing loss, if you live with tinnitus, studies have shown that a low-fat diet generally promotes less disturbance compared to those on a high-fat diet. So even if you don’t have high cholesterol, adopting a low-fat diet can promote other health benefits for hearing related conditions.
Diets Rich in Sodium
Most of us can admit we love salty foods, but too many dishes high in sodium can cause anguish to your body and health. But how much salt is too much? Studies suggest one teaspoon is recommended. In Australia, we are salt fiends and consume twice as much salt than we need. High levels of salt in our diets are linked with high blood pressure, a risk factor for kidney and cardiovascular disease.
If your blood pressure is too high, it also unnecessarily strains 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 permanent hearing loss. This is why people with diabetes are twice as likely to experience hearing loss.
Dietary Changes That Can Prevent Hearing Loss
There are still a whole host of other vitamins and minerals you can incorporate into your diet to prevent hearing loss. Research has pointed towards the following nutrients, in particular, which may help to keep hearing loss at bay!
|Potassium||Potatoes, lima beans, tomatoes, spinach, apricots, raisins, bananas, melons, oranges, yoghurt and low-fat milk|
|Folic Acid||Fortified breakfast cereal, liver, spinach, broccoli and asparagus|
|Omega 3||Flaxseed oil, krill oil, salmon, soybean oil, walnuts and 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|
Potassium is responsible for regulating the amount of fluid in your blood and body tissue. In a healthy ear, they should be rich in potassium which aids the different fluid types. This fluid plays a vital role in translating the sounds we hear into electrical impulses that the brain can understand. Naturally, when there are changes to the cochlea fluid, 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 body drops, which may increase the likelihood and severity of hearing loss. However, ensuring you eat a healthy, wholefood diet rich in potassium may benefit many aspects of your health and hearing.
Zinc is a vitamin that promotes a healthy and strong immune system. This dramatically reduces the chances of catching viruses, 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 another essential building block in our body. If you’re unsure of the role of folic acid, it helps form new cells and 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.
People with low folic acid levels have an increased risk of hearing loss. Studies examining the causes of sudden hearing loss (SSHL) discovered that folate levels were found to be significantly lower in SSHL patients than in those without hearing loss. However, a diet high in folic acid may promote a healthy cell function and reduce the risk of developing hearing loss.
Magnesium aids nerve and muscle function, blood sugar levels and blood pressure regulation, among other things. A drop in magnesium levels can ‘suffocate’ the cochlea. This happens because the blood vessels shrink due to 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.
Omega 3 has excellent anti-inflammatory properties, with studies reporting regular consumers of the vitamin are 40 per cent less likely to have hearing loss than people who eat fish less than once a week.
Eat Well and Hear Well
Investing in what you eat by committing yourself to a well-balanced diet of healthy and nutrient-rich foods can play a part in keeping your hearing health in check.
Although 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.