It is becoming increasingly clear that what is good for your overall health is also good for your hearing health! A recent study conducted by researchers at Brigham & Women’s Hospital found that those who closely followed an anti-inflammatory diet had significantly less hearing loss over a four-year period than those who ate a more typical American diet. Common anti-inflammatory diets include the Alternate Mediterranean Diet (AMED) and Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH).
While it can be hard to switch your entire diet in one fell swoop, there are some common nutrients that typify the health benefits of both of the above-mentioned diets. A good rule of thumb is to “add in the good stuff,” and eventually you’ll notice yourself eating less of the bad. By eating foods that are rich in the following nutrients, you’ll be on your way to better hearing health—and better health, in general!
Folate (Vitamin B-9)
A study from 1999 found that older women with hearing loss had 43% less folate in their blood than those with normal hearing. In 2003, another study replicated the finding. And in 2004, a third study found that men with hearing loss had very low levels of B-9. The link is clear: Get plenty of B-9 to help maintain your hearing health!
Foods high in folate include beans, broccoli, asparagus, spinach, nuts, eggs and liver.
In the same study from 1999 mentioned above, it was found that older women with hearing loss had 48% less B-12 than those with normal hearing. Other studies have confirmed the finding. It seems that B-12 is as important as folate for maintaining your best hearing ability.
Both folate and B-12 help to maintain lower levels of homocysteine in the body. When you don’t get enough of these vitamins, homocysteine levels rise and restrict blood flow. While efficient blood flow is critically important for maintaining the sensitive, tiny structures in the inner ear, it’s also important for other systems in the body.
To get more B-12 in your diet, eat a recommended amount of animal products like milk and dairy products, eggs, fish and meat. Vegetarians should take a B-12 supplement.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
The balance between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids is important for good overall health, but the typical American diet tends to include higher levels of omega-6s. While eating more omega-3s is a good idea, it may also be beneficial to cut down on foods high in omega-6, such as chicken, safflower oil, canola oil, tofu, and eggs. But most importantly, add more omega-3s!
Foods rich in omega-3s include flaxseed, walnuts, free-range eggs, grass-fed beef, olive oil, and wild-caught salmon and sardines.
Vitamins A & E
A study published in 2011 tested the link between intake of certain antioxidants and the risk of hearing loss. Over five years, researchers measured participants’ intake of various antioxidants. By the end of the study the results were clear: Those who got the most vitamins A & E had significantly less hearing loss. Those with the highest dietary intake of vitamin A had a 47% lower risk of hearing loss, while those who ate foods high in vitamin E reduced their risk by 14%. Getting plenty of both is the best way to go!
Foods rich in vitamin E include sweet potato, butternut squash, avocado, spinach, almonds, sunflower seeds, and olive oil. For more vitamin A, look to sweet potato, carrots, broccoli, kale, spinach, beef liver, eggs, and grass-fed butter.
No list of important nutrients can conclude without a mention of vitamin C! This super-nutrient boosts the immune system and scavenges potentially harmful free radicals throughout the body. Because it is water-soluble, it is very hard to take too much. (But be careful… it is still possible to take too much!)
Taking vitamin C effectively reduces the level of reactive oxygen metabolites in the inner ear. This has been shown to improve the symptoms of sudden sensorineural hearing loss, and also helps to protect against age-related hearing loss and even noise-induced hearing loss.
Foods with high amounts of vitamin C include citrus fruits, strawberries, papaya, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, bell peppers and dark leafy greens like kale or chard.
It’s always a good idea to improve your diet, but it’s also important to treat hearing loss if it is affecting your life. If you or a loved one may be living with untreated hearing loss, make an appointment for a hearing test today and take charge of your hearing health!