You might blame your hearing loss on listening to loud music or subjecting yourself to high-pitched machinery noises on the job. But the truth is, there are a wide variety of lifestyle factors that contribute to hearing loss and hearing loss prevention – and the quality of your diet is one of them.
Scientific studies show that patients who elevate their consumption of specific nutrients have a reduced risk of hearing loss. Even better, adjusting your diet now could help protect the hearing you still have. While results vary – and some patients receive no benefit at all – the research we have cited below reveals that the following dietary supplements can prevent hearing loss in many cases:
Doctors love recommending fish oil supplements to support heart health. But you probably didn’t know that fish oil – even simply eating fish – could help your hearing. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, eating two helpings of fish per week reduces instances of age-related hearing in adults (aged 50 and up) by 42%.
If you don't want to eat a fresh plate of tilapia or blackened Mahi Mahi twice a week, you can achieve the same benefits by taking your doctor-recommend fish oil pills. Look for them on the supplement shelf at your local grocery store.
Oregon State University reports that 61% of U.S. adults consume less than the EAR (Estimated Average Requirement) for magnesium. That’s not surprising considering how many Americans don’t like to eat their nuts and veggies. Nevertheless, scientific studies show that higher levels of magnesium consumption protect us against noise-induced hearing loss.
The next time you head out to a Rolling Stones concert – or blast that old recording of Steve Allen on jazz piano – make sure to pop a can of spinach or two. Actually, the best sources of magnesium are green leafy veggies, whole grains, beans, and nuts. We’re also quite partial to the orange-flavored effervescent magnesium tablets that you can buy at the pharmacy.
Doctors often reference folic acid (also known as Vitamin B9 or folate) as a pregnancy supplement. Consuming this nutrient in sufficient quantities helps to protect spinal cord and brain development in babies. In addition to prenatal health, a 2007 scientific study shows that folic acid supplementation can delay the onset of age-related hearing loss for the lower frequency sound ranges.
Fortunately, most daily multivitamins contain the 400 mcg daily recommended dose of folic acid, so if you’re taking a one-a-day, check the label to see if you’re getting all of the folic acid you need.
Natural foods that are high in folate include beans, peas, lentils, legumes, asparagus, eggs, leafy green vegetables, beets, citrus fruits, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, nuts and seeds, beef liver, wheat germ, papaya, bananas, and avocado.
Speak with your doctor before taking folic acid supplements or vitamins with folic acid because it may not be health-appropriate for people with certain conditions – especially patients with cancer, kidney problems, heart stents, or pernicious anemia (vitamin B12 deficiency).
Vitamin C, E, B12, and Beta Carotene
We have seen claims that vitamins C, E, B12, and beta carotene help to reduce hearing loss (beta carotene is a precursor to vitamin A). While experts disagree on whether there is a true correlation between these nutrients and hearing loss prevention, this scientific study claims that consuming higher amounts of vitamin C, E, B12, or beta carotene could reduce the chances of hearing decline in adult males.
While scientists might have different opinions, we can all agree that vitamins C, E, B12, and beta carotene are great for your health. So you might want to consider consuming more citrus for vitamin C; carrots and sweet potatoes for beta carotene; nuts and seeds for vitamin E; and fish, meat, poultry, eggs, and yogurt for vitamin B12.
If you decide to take B12 supplements, consider a B-complex pill that contains folic acid (B9). According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, B12 taken with B9 was shown to reduce instances of age-related hearing loss in women between the ages of 60 and 71. B12 and folic acid deficiencies are some of the most common nutrient deficiencies among seniors, so again, vitamin B complex supplementation is an excellent idea no matter what.
Vitamin A supplements could also prevent hearing loss. The Journal of Nutrition, Health, and Aging published a study showing that higher levels of vitamin A supplementation coincided with reduced instances of hearing loss. According to the study: “Those in the highest quintile of dietary vitamin A intake had a 47% reduced risk of having moderate or greater hearing loss (>40 dB HL) compared to those in the lowest quintile of intake.”
Of course, there are many reasons to take vitamin A – such as the tremendous benefits it brings to your eyes, bones, and cells. You can increase vitamin A consumption by taking supplements or eating more apricots, cabbage, carrots, grapefruit, lettuce, spinach, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and watermelon.
Perhaps you heard about the antioxidant-rich benefits of resveratrol, a nutrient found in grapes, purple fruits, and purple vegetables. It’s also found in red wine.
Studies show that consuming resveratrol helps prevent blood clots, preserve blood vessel health, and lower bad cholesterol. Another study published by Sage Journals suggests that sufficient levels of resveratrol could protect your hearing from the body’s inflammatory response to loud noise. The study showed that the presence of resveratrol reduces Cyclooxygenase (COX-2) production after loud noise exposure. As an inflammatory protein that the body produces in response to elevated noise exposure, scientists believe that COX-2 is one of the primary causes of noise-induced hearing loss.
According to Oregon State University’s Linus Pauling Institute:
Resveratrol is found in grapes, wine, grape juice, peanuts, cocoa, and berries of Vaccinium species, including blueberries, bilberries, and cranberries (140-143). In grapes, resveratrol is found only in the skins (144).”
A word of caution on wine consumption. Before you ask your spouse to open another bottle of red wine while turning up the volume on your favorite Wynton Marsalis album, remember that the benefits of resveratrol are theoretical. More importantly, alcohol can negate the benefits of resveratrol for hearing loss – so you may want to just take it in supplement form.
Final Thoughts on Diet and Hearing Loss Prevention
Scientists are continually finding exciting new health benefits of vitamins and other supplements, like the ability of lion's mane mushroom powder to combat dementia and alzheimer's. The world of hearing health is no different. If you’re interested in seeing whether a better diet and vitamin supplementation can improve your hearing or delay the progression of your hearing loss, we think it’s an excellent idea to adopt a health regimen that increases your consumption of the nutrients we listed above (as long as your doctor approves). Even if it doesn’t improve your hearing, a healthy diet will improve your quality of life in countless ways.
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