By now, most of us are keenly aware of the benefits of a healthful diet. These benefits vary widely from weight loss and diabetes management, to increased memory and better mood.
We can now add decreased risk of hearing loss to the potential benefits of a healthy diet! New research has now found promising results that conclude eating a healthy diet may reduce one’s risk for developing a hearing loss.
What were the study findings?
Researchers from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital were interested in discovering whether or not eating a healthy diet had any effect on hearing loss over time. To study this correlation, the investigators used longitudinal data collected in the Nurses’ Health Study II Conservation of Hearing Study (CHEARS).
Over a three-year period, the researchers looked at data from hearing assessments to determine a participant’s hearing ability. The data found that there was a significant and astonishing 30% decline in the odds of mid-frequency hearing loss amongst those with diets more closely aligned with healthy dietary patterns than their peers with less healthy dietary patterns. The odds of participants developing higher frequency hearing losses was about 25% lower for those who had healthier diet patterns.
Sharon Curhan, MD, a physician and epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School in Boston said of the study results, “given that hearing loss is so common, a 30% lower risk is considerable … These findings strongly suggest that the development of hearing loss with age may not be inevitable and that eating a healthy diet may be helpful in reducing the risk.” (https://www.healthyhearing.com/report/53053-Diet-and-hearing-loss-what-the-research-says).
Which diets were the participants following?
There were a few diets that the participants who were considered to be in the healthier diet category were aligned with.
These diets were the Alternate Mediterranean diet (AMED), the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), and the 2010 Alternative Healthy Eating Index (AHEI-2010).
The Alternate Mediterranean diet (AMED) focuses on an increased consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, fish, and olive oil. This diet encourages drinking only a very moderate amount of alcohol.
The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet also encourages fruits, vegetables, nuts, and fish, with the addition of lean meats and low-fat dairy. This diet focuses on reducing consumption of fat, sugar, and sodium.
The 2010 Alternative Healthy Eating Index (AHEI-2010) diet also of course recommends an increased consumption of vegetables and fruits. The diet also encourages consuming whole grains and discourages and limits salt, sugar, and animal fats.
How does diet impact hearing?
Multiple theories exist as to why a healthier diet may decrease risk of hearing loss. Most of these theories are related to the benefits of healthy food on overall cardiac health.
Diets that are heart healthy, help to lower the risk of conditions that damage or inflame the arteries or veins. These conditions (such as heart disease or diabetes) can limit healthy blood flow throughout the body. Just like all of our systems, our auditory system is reliant on healthy blood flow to our ears in order for us to have healthy hearing.
Diets high in antioxidants may also be responsible for the correlation between heathy diets and healthy hearing. This is because antioxidants protect against oxidant stress – which is responsible for cell damage. Damage to our delicate inner ear cells causes hearing loss.
Other ways to decrease your risk of hearing loss
Of course, this is just one study and while there are multiple studies connecting certain nutrients and a decreased risk of developing hearing loss, there are also other steps you can take to help reduce your risk of developing hearing loss.
One of the most important and effective ways to reduce your risk of hearing loss is to protect the hearing you do have. This means limiting your exposure to excess noises both at work and during leisure activities. When you must expose yourself to a noisy activity at work or at play, always make sure to wear effective and quality hearing protection. Excess exposure to loud noises is one of the most common causes of hearing loss amongst people of all ages.
Treating hearing loss
An annual hearing test is an important part of your overall health and wellness regimen. Annual hearing tests establish a baseline for your hearing abilities and they help us monitor any changes in your hearing. If a hearing loss is found, our team can help you with a treatment plan that is tailored to your specific needs. Contact us today!