Everything is Connected… Eating Well for the Sake of your Ears

In my last post I was delighted to tell you of findings that chocolate consumption may be correlated with better hearing. Well, I can’t top that good news, but here is some more information about associations that researchers are finding between good nutrition and healthy ears. Remember that associations do not prove causation, but more and more we are seeing correlations that indicate just how connected everything is. Good nutrition and good exercise, that is, overall healthy living, seems to impact our auditory system…and good hearing is an integrated factor in overall health. Yes, everything is connected!

A large longitudinal study was done at the prestigious Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. 70,966 women in the Nurse’s Health Study II were followed for 22 years. It was found that eating a healthy diet is associated with a lower risk of acquired hearing loss in women. “eating well contributes to overall good health,” noted lead author Sharon Curhan, MD, “and it may also be helpful in reducing the risk of hearing loss.”

Of course, there is no specific food that will prevent hearing loss for certain, and lost hearing cannot be restored through diet. However, there were some common elements to the diets that were monitored in the Brigham and Women’s study. These diets favored fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, legumes, whole grains, seafood, poultry, and low-fat dairy. Sodium (salt) and food high in LDL cholesterol were limited, thus discouraging consumption of processed foods, sugary drinks, and red meat.

Digging deeper, diets that prioritize fruits and vegetables with minerals like folic acid, potassium, and zinc were found to correlate with decreased hearing loss. Potassium (bananas, potatoes, black beans) plays a large role in inner ear function. Magnesium is thought to protect inner ear cells when exposed to loud noises. Another study noted that because the inner ear depends on regular blood flow, folate is important; foods high in folic acid such as spinach, broccoli, and asparagus appear to be ear-healthy.

Malnutrition not only stunts development overall, but specifically slows inner ear development. Malnourished children were observed to be two times more likely to develop hearing loss compared to well-nourished peers. And, this is passed along in utero to developing fetuses, as well as in living children. Finally, increased risk of hearing loss is reported in both pre-diabetes and diabetes.

I draw two conclusions from the reading I’ve been doing on ears and nutrition: There are risk factors that are modifiable, so stack the odds in your favor! And, more and more it appears that everything is connected! Live a healthy life style and you will reap benefits in all aspects of health, we hope including your hearing.

Start with an appointment with us at McGuires to check your hearing. We will help you along the path to healthy hearing and healthy living.