For decades we have consumed information about the benefits of healthy ways of eating. We may even be familiar with the impact of certain types of foods and specific nutrients. For example: calcium is great for maintaining strong bones, spinach is packed with various vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids are useful for disease prevention etc. But did you know that there are nutrients that protect your hearing health?
Prevalence of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is a common health concern that millions of people are navigating. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, 1 in 8 people (age 12 and older) experience some degree of hearing loss. This impacts one’s ability to absorb, hear, and process sound and speech. Impaired hearing can impact all aspects of a person’s life by causing communication to suffer, straining relationships, and contributing to fatigue and stress which can take a toll on one’s emotional and mental health. There are ways that can reduce your risk of hearing loss. One way you can do this is through your diet!
Diet’s Impact on Hearing
There are various factors that contribute to hearing loss including environmental exposure to loud noise, genetic history, and existing medical conditions. One’s diet can lead to (or help prevent) the development of health issues such as: diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, obesity etc. These medical conditions can then contribute to hearing loss. Our diets play a critical role in the ability of our bodies to function and sustain healthily.
Nutrients that Boost Hearing Health
Vitamins and minerals sustain our bodies. They boost health by supporting the immune system, cells, organs, and growth. We receive vitamins and minerals everyday through the food we consume. Some foods offer more than others and there are specific vitamins and minerals that support your hearing health including the following:
- Potassium: is an essential mineral that is key in regulating the level of fluids inside your body. Additionally, potassium supports the transmission of nerve impulses. This helps regulate the fluid in the cochlea which, receives the sound waves we absorb from the environment and translates them into electrical impulses sent to the brain to process.
- Potassium rich foods: tomatoes, mushrooms, bananas, potatoes, spinach, oranges, cucumbers, peas
- Magnesium: is a mineral salt that participates in the processing of enzymes. It helps with nerve and muscle function in addition to blood pressure regulation. Magnesium can help protect the ears from the harm caused by loud noise. It can act as a barrier to the absorption of intense sound waves.
- Magnesium rich foods: broccoli, artichoke, asparagus, leafy greens (spinach, kale), figs, avocado, black beans, chickpeas
- Zinc: helps with the metabolization of fats, carbs, and proteins. Zinc also supports the immune system, growth, and healing wounds. This is beneficial to combating infections, sickness, and injury which can all impact your ears and hearing ability.
- Zinc rich foods: meat (beef, pork, chicken), lentils, peanuts, shellfish, rice, eggs
Research shows that there is a link between a healthful diet and healthy hearing. In a 2019 study conducted by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (Boston, Massachusetts), findings showed that people following healthy diets had a lower risk of developing hearing loss. Of the 3,135 participants, researchers found that the people who were practicing eating healthily were:
- 30% less likely to develop mid frequency hearing loss
- 25% less likely to develop high frequency hearing loss
These participants were closely adhering to the following diets: Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), Alternate Mediterranean (AMED), Alternate Healthy Index-2010 (AHEI-2010). Rather than diets, in the conventional way we think of them, these are approaches to eating that focus on foods that are more plant based (meat in moderation). These ways of eating are high vitamins and minerals like potassium, magnesium, and zinc!
Eating a balanced diet has such far reaching and long-lasting benefits. A healthy diet supports the longevity of your health and strength of your body. What you consume can boost your immune system, support healthy cholesterol levels, blood pressure, blood flow etc. which can prevent various medical conditions. Eating foods that are rich in magnesium, zinc, and potassium can protect your hearing health and support you feeling your best!