How our diet affects our hearing health

Many people worry over their diet for lots of reasons, reducing cholesterol, risk of type 2 diabetes and lowering blood pressure among them, but can the food you eat affect your hearing as well? There has recently been research into the relationship between our nutritional intake and our audio abilities that have had some startling results. In the International Journal of Audiology, Spankovich and Le Prell report “a significant relationship between dietary nutrient intake and susceptibility to acquired hearing loss is emerging”.

With this in mind, a few simple additions to your diet may help to fight the risk of acquired hearing loss. These minerals do not have attributes solely attached to auditory health and may even improve other aspects of your health alongside your ears.

Omega 3 & Vitamin D

 

Eggs

Though your body makes Vitamin D naturally through exposure to sunlight, it may not always be enough if you live in less sunny areas or do not get exposed to it often. Vitamin D regulates the absorption of Calcium and facilitates a healthy functioning immune system. An increased and stronger immune system lowers the risk of infections and the damage they will do to your hearing. Omega 3 is also known as an essential fat that cannot be made within the body. According to The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, consumption of Omega 3 and food associated with it significantly reduce the risk of hearing loss. Omega 3 strengthens the blood vessels in our ear’s sensory systems, therefore improving the ear’s efficiency. Vitamin D is found in fatty fish (like salmon or tuna), certain mushrooms (such as Portobello) and egg yolks. Omega 3 is most prevalent in many of the same foods as Vitamin D but also in walnuts, flax seeds and chia seeds. This is easy to incorporate into your regular diet by increasing the amount of fish you eat per week (especially the oily fish previously mentioned) and making salads more exciting with seeds and nuts, or perhaps whizzing up a smoothie that includes chia seeds and fruit.

 

Antioxidants & Folic Acid

 

Nut shells

Antioxidants have recently had significant amounts of press regaling us with their many benefits, but can they directly impact your ears? Again, these are known to boost immune systems but they also slow down the effects of free radicals in our system. Free radicals destabilise cells in a bid for cellular stability. This can lead to weakened organs, tissues and skin. Reducing the oxidative damage done by free radicals means we are able to hold off on our ears aging for a little longer. Folic acid is also known as folate, and is important for tissue growth and cell development. It is also associated with red blood cells as folic acid plays an important role in the formation of red blood cells and a lack of it can cause anaemia which has been directly related to hearing loss. Research from the Naval Medical Centre in San Diego “Indicates a strong protective effect from noise induced cochlear damage and suggests the feasibility of using antioxidant compounds to protect the ear from acute acoustic injury”. Antioxidants are found in many fruits, especially berries such as blueberries, raspberries and strawberries, but also in many beans and nuts. Folic acid is common in lentils, avocadoes and spinach as well as other leafy greens. Desserts garnished with fresh seasonal berries are a simple way to include more antioxidants in your diet, while a side of spinach could improve your folic acid intake.

 

Magnesium

 

Chocolate shavings

This efficient little mineral is produced in our bodies and used almost everywhere for constant maintenance and upkeep. It helps create and repair DNA and RNA, which may help cells that have been damaged and can cause hearing loss. The American Academy of Audiology explored the relationship of Magnesium and hearing and found “increased susceptibility to noise damage, ototoxicity and auditory hyperexcitibility are linked to states of Magnesium deficiency.” Some forms of magnesium are also anti-inflammatory. If an infection causes swelling in the inner ear, this can lead to hearing problems and permanent damage, so this nutrient can be very beneficial. Magnesium is readily available in many nuts including cashews and almonds, but can also be found in pumpkin seeds and even in dark chocolate. Including seeds with nuts and dried fruit as an alternative snack is both healthy and filling, as well as including your daily dose of magnesium among other nutrients.

 

Zinc

 

Oysters

The tenth most common element in our body can be stored in red and white blood cells, bones, liver, kidneys, pancreas and retinas. It is directly involved in cell division as well as being vital for the functioning of countless hormones and many enzymes. A lack of zinc may be one of the causes of tinnitus according to St Marianna University School of Medicine in Japan whose findings “suggest that [a deficiency in] zinc is involved in the generation of tinnitus.” Those most at risk from a zinc deficiency are vegetarians and those with digestive issues. Oysters have the highest concentration of zinc but it can also be found in other seafood, red meat and whole grain cereals. An effortless way of including zinc in your daily diet would be to trade white carbs for their whole grain alternatives, though check cooking instructions, as whole grain rice takes longer to cook than white rice.

 

Vitamin C & E

 

Leafy greens

These two vitamins work in synchronisation to complement each other and both promote tissue function - Vitamin C aids in brain communication and Vitamin E helps control blood vessel constriction. When these vitamins work in harmony, they support each other’s antioxidant functions, contribute towards your immune system and promote immune cell growth. When ingested together, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition informs us these vitamins are significantly more effective than when they are taken individually and can reduce your risk of hearing loss further. Vitamin E can be easily consumed through dark leafy greens, shellfish and plant oils while Vitamin C is found in bell peppers, citrus fruits and tomatoes. Exchanging vegetable oil for olive or sunflower oil is an easy change to make, while lots of fresh salads are always a great addition to any healthy diet.

Image Credit: Jorge Brazil, Roger Nelson, Gail, Irina Shulginova, Africa Studio