There are many ways to support and maintain healthy hearing--protecting ears from noise pollution, turning down the music, and getting a regular checkup from an audiologist, but nutrition also plays a key part in hearing preservation. Studies confirm that hearing loss and poor nutrition go hand and hand. An Australian study reported on in the Journal of Nutrition, has shown that diets high in sugar and carbohydrates detrimentally impacts hearing. A similar study showed that diets high in cholesterol also contribute to hearing loss normally associated with aging. Cutting out sugary and cholesterol rich foods would be a good start to a hearing fitness plan, but good hearing nutrition doesn’t only take into account what a diet includes, but also what is lacking.
Hearing loss is the third most common health problem in the United States, but few people are aware that changing their nutrition can help guard against it.
Deficiency in nutrients, like B12 and folic acid can impair hearing by as much as 39% while increasing these nutrients, according to some studies, can protect hearing by as much as 20%. Folic acid deficiency specifically has been linked with high-frequency hearing loss. Research reported on in the December 2010 issue of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery indicates that deficiencies in folic acid and B12 impinge on hearing by harming the nervous and vascular systems and perhaps even damaging the coating over the cochlear nerve. Much of this damage is due to free radicals.
Antioxidants like B12, folic acid, Omega 3, and vitamin A are all important because they help fight off damaging free radicals.
Free radicals are everywhere and cannot be avoided, but the damage they inflict increases with poor nutrition and stress. Free radicals damage many parts of the body, so combating their presence with antioxidants not only protects hearing but has many other healthful benefits. An antioxidant rich diet can also help fight against ototoxicity, the damage some drugs like those used to battle depression and cancer can do to the inner ear.
Antioxidants are found in high quantities in healthy leafy greens and other foods like lentils, dried beans, and bananas. Substituting these nutritious foods for high cholesterol and high sugar foods would go a long way to preserving hearing and fighting off free radicals. Ensuring proper nutrition to protect and preserve hearing is best accomplished by visiting a nutritionist along with regular checkups with your audiologist.
A lot of attention has been given to chronic inflammation as a cause for many health conditions. While a small amount of inflammation is necessary for some bodily functions, too much exposure to inflammatory foods and chemicals can be a health robber, and this includes conditions known to cause hearing loss such as diabetes and heart disease. Avoiding inflammatory foods could help you stay healthy! Read below for a list of common inflammatory foods.
Common foods that cause inflammation:
- Vegetable oils--too much omega 6 fatty acids, use EVOO or Canola oil which are rich in Omega 3s The Standard American Diet (SAD--and it really is sad, boo hoo) is typically rich in Omega 6 fatty acids but our bodies need a specific ratio of Omegas 3, 6, and 9. The SAD is typically low in the Omega 3s, which are very healthy fats known to reduce inflammation and are found in walnuts, salmon, flax seeds, and tofu.
- Margarine/Partially Hydrogenated Oils--These are found mostly in processed foods. They are cheaper than natural fats and preserve the shelf-life of packaged foods but they are health robbers!
- High fat meats, especially those treated with nitrates/nitrites (preservatives)--
- Whole/2% milk--use a dairy substitute such as almond, rice or coconut milk
- Cream cheese--try using goat cheese or part skim organic ricotta
- Processed cheese such as American--opt for organic/grassfed hard cheese in small quantities.. better flavor
- SUGAR--limit it! No artificial sweeteners, either. Stevia, honey or real maple syrup are tasty substitutions.
- Refined carbohydrates--this includes white breads, pasta, anything with “enriched” flour, this means the good stuff has been removed from the grain and we are left with a health robber. Our bodies were meant to process foods in their most natural form, science does not yet know all of the nutritional values of all the components in a natural food. Many times studies will find that a nutrient within a blueberry for example, is not absorbed or processed as well without another component of the blueberry. This is why supplements, while helpful sometimes, are not a substitute for good nutrition but rather a supplement. Supplements cannot make up for BAD nutrition. Eat your foods in the most natural state possible. If it doesn’t grow in a box, you shouldn’t eat it from a box!
- Sodium. We do need it in small quantities but we want to maintain a higher ratio of potassium to sodium. Packaged and prepared foods have higher sodium than potassium (health robber) and whole foods naturally have the potassium to sodium ratio that our bodies are craving.
- Chemicals/pesticides. Many of the chemicals used in commercial farming have not been studied as to how they affect human health. The magnitude of the risk with these is not fully understood. Avoid the dirty dozen to help reduce your exposure to these chemicals.
- Click here for a list of the Dirty Dozen (foods with high pesticide residue) and the Clean Fifteen (foods with low pesticide residue).
Gopinath Bamini, Flood M. Victoria, McMahon M. Catherine, Burlutsky George, Brand-Miller jennie, Mitchell Paul. (2010) Dietary Glycemic Load is A predictor of Hearing Loss in Older Adults. Nutr. December 1, 2010 vol. 140 no. 12 2207-2212 taken from: http://jn.nutrition.org/content/140/12/2207.abstract