Hearing Loss – What’s Missing From Your Diet Can Hurt

July 6, 2020 | Dr. Linda J. Dobberstein, DC, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition

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 Hearing Loss – What’s Missing From Your Diet Can Hurt
We are taught from an early age that your eyes need nutrients like vitamin A, carotenes and lots of vegetables like carrots for eyesight protection. Have you ever wondered what nutrients your ears and auditory system need for hearing? What lifestyle choices protect your auditory system from the constant sound challenges of today? Like other systems and tissues in your body, your ears’ delicate auditory system requires several nutrients for their function and protection to perform for a lifetime.

Now more than ever, your auditory system is bombarded by sounds. Personal listening devices, trains, planes, and vehicles of all sort, televisions, lawn mowers, leaf and snow blowers, car stereos and horns, phones, music and sporting events, and so much more contribute to the hum and noise of daily life. Your ears and nervous system constantly work to receive and interpret these sounds of life. In order to perform this “silent” duty and be protected from the stress of it, your auditory system requires several nutrients. If nutritional status is lacking, research shows us that age-related hearing loss becomes reality.

Nutrients Are Critical for Hearing

Scientists have identified several key nutrients necessary for protection against age-related hearing loss. A major review study published May 2020 evaluated nutrient status and age-related hearing loss. After extensive review of more than 3500 studies, the scientists concluded that individuals who consumed a diet rich in the antioxidants vitamins A, C, E, and omega-3 fatty acids experienced superior outcomes for healthy hearing and protection against age-related hearing loss. Those who failed to consume adequate intake of these nutrients experienced greater hearing loss regardless of other factors.

Other recent studies have confirmed and broadened the list of nutrients essential for middle and inner ear function and protection. Critical nutrients identified included vitamins A, C, D, E and several B vitamins, along with the minerals zinc, magnesium, selenium, iron, and iodine. The antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which are commonly used for eye health also protect hearing. Researchers found that a lack of even one nutrient increases the likelihood of hearing loss

Western Diet Causes Decline in Hearing

Dietary patterns were also evaluated pertaining to age-related decline in hearing. Findings showed that individuals who consumed higher protein and omega-3 fatty acids (DHA, EPA, cold-water fatty fish, flax and/or chia seeds) intake did not experience the same age related decline as those who consumed the traditional Western diet. Individuals who consumed a high carbohydrate/sugar and high fat diets either by choice or who were provided the diet in care facilities experienced greater age-related hearing loss compared to those who consumed a healthier nutrient rich diet.

Infants and Youth Need Nutrients for Ear and Auditory Health

Infants and children require adequate nutrient levels for their hearing and protection of the middle (Eustachian tube) and inner ear. Children especially need vitamins A, B1, C, and E, zinc, iodine and iron for auditory function. Even a slight lack of iodine and thiamin (vitamin B1) diminishes auditory function in infants and children. Whereas, severe iodine deficiency during prenatal development was found to cause marked hearing loss in infancy. Another study found that teenagers with iodine deficiency experienced a decline in hearing acuity, but once iodine levels were replenished, hearing improved.

Delicate Tissues Require Protection

Your middle and inner ear are delicate tissues highly sensitive to the accumulation of free radical damage, which over a course of a life-time contributes to age-related hearing loss. Each nutrient listed above is involved with some aspect of auditory function and quenching free radicals that affects the hammer, anvil, stirrups, hair cells, cochlea, nerves, and signaling pathways necessary for hearing. Imbalance and lack of any one antioxidant puts further strain on your hearing mechanisms and creates an accumulation of damage that leads to hearing loss.

Hearing Loss Leads to Cognitive Decline

Decline in auditory function impacts other aspect of health. Hearing loss causes marked ripple effects on cellular and neurological functions and even other organs. It goes beyond the inability to hear sounds or struggling with conversations. A decline in hearing ultimately ages your brain and causes neural degeneration

Even a slight loss of hearing is linked with cognitive decline as reported by JAMA Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery journal November 2019. Hearing loss is considered “one of the most influential risk factors of dementia in older adults”.

Think about family members or friends who struggle with hearing loss. It may be your child with chronic ear problems who says “What?” repeatedly, an elderly family member with neurocognitive decline, or perhaps a personal recognition that your hearing is not as sharp as it used to be. Is your nutritional status adequate to manage your auditory system’s daily needs for a lifetime?

Pandemic of Age-Related Hearing Loss

Current statistics show that about one in three people age 65-74 have age-related hearing loss. Nearly one in two people 75 and older have trouble hearing – a pandemic of age-related hearing loss.

Hearing loss is attributed to a lifetime of noise stress and numerous other factors not mentioned in this article. Certainly, these are important to recognize and manage, but what about the reality that nutrients Vitamins ABC, D, E, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, magnesium, selenium, iron, and iodine along with a healthy diet is needed for all ages to maintain normal auditory function and protect from noise induced free radicals? Make a change now to avoid the long-term pandemic of hearing loss linked with inadequate nutrient intake.

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