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Over 35 million Americans live with significant hearing loss – more than ten percent of our total population. Hearing loss is incredibly common, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, most hearing loss is preventable. Several health and wellness factors can contribute to our hearing.
The single most important factor in preventing hearing loss is protecting your ears from loud noises. Shielding your hearing when loud sounds are near prevents noise-induced hearing damage and sustains healthy hearing. Using protective ear muffs and ear plugs around sustained noise levels and sudden bursts of noise protects your auditory system from irreparable harm.
While protecting your hearing is key to hearing health, there are plenty of other ways to promote auditory strength and resilience. You may be surprised that what you eat can help support your hearing. A range of vitamins and minerals have been found to have fundamental links to hearing performance.
Our bodies need potassium for a variety of functions, but our ears need potassium specifically for its role in maintaining fluids in the body. The inner ear depends on fluid for balance, hearing and sending electrical signals to the brain. Potassium has also been associated with staving off age-related hearing loss.
To get healthy amounts of potassium in your diet, think about fruit and dairy products. Milk and yogurt as well as apricots, tomatoes, melons, bananas and citrus all have high levels of natural potassium. If you take multivitamins or supplements, opting for one that includes potassium can ensure you are getting appropriate amounts in your diet.
Folate is another name for vitamin B9, which is used by the body for a wide range of functions from DNA repair to digestion, to supporting blood cell performance. Folate has also been scientifically linked to hearing health. Over the course of a three year study in the Netherlands, subjects with low folate levels were significantly more likely to develop hearing loss than those with healthy folate levels.
When looking for folate rich whole foods, turn to beans, eggs, liver, broccoli and cauliflower, papaya, avocado, leafy greens and asparagus. Foods enriched with folic acid can also help deliver folate to your system. Folate intake through food, rather than a supplement is recommended to help maintain naturally balanced levels in the body.
Healthy levels of the trace mineral magnesium have been shown to fortify your hearing in important ways. In a study from the University of Michigan, magnesium in concert with vitamins A, C and E were shown to provide added protection for the ear when exposed to loud noise. Magnesium’s role in this protective function seems to be two-fold: first, magnesium reduces free radicals that can harm the inner ear and second, magnesium can increase blood flow to the small sensory organs of the inner ear and enhance blood vessel performance to the area.
Magnesium is found in many foods. Seeds like flax seeds, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds are rich in magnesium. Other plant-based sources for magnesium include herbs like dill, chives, basil and spearmint as well as veggies like okra and artichokes. Magnesium can also be supported through dietary supplements.
In a 2011 broad study of the role of vitamin antioxidants, researchers discovered a strong connection between vitamin A and hearing health. In the study, subjects with high vitamin A intake, risk of hearing loss was reduced by nearly half. Vitamin A helps healthy skin and tissue develop in the body, improves eyesight and assists growth. It is also anti-inflammatory and helps purge harmful free radicals from the body. These last two roles especially may be key to why it is so helpful to our hearing and it has been shown to work in concert with magnesium to reduce risk of hearing loss.
Getting enough vitamin A is easy and delicious. Abundant vitamin A can be found in root foods like sweet potatoes and carrots, in fruits like grapes and mangos, and in squash and pumpkin. Vitamin A can also be taken in supplement form.
Alongside vitamin A, vitamin E was also effective against hearing loss, reducing risk by 14 percent. Vitamin E can be found in a wide variety of foods including papaya, pomegranate, raspberries and many types of nuts and seeds.
Seeking Treatment for Hearing Loss
While a healthy diet is always recommended to support all areas of our well being, it is also important to take an annual hearing test if you are over the age of 50. An annual hearing test allows you to keep an eye on your hearing abilities and seek treatment if a hearing loss is indicated. Contact us today to learn more!