A Healthy Diet Can Lower the Risk of Hearing Loss

In Hearing Health, Hearing Loss by Jennifer G. Mayer, Au.D., CCC-A

Jennifer G. Mayer, Au.D., CCC-A
Latest posts by Jennifer G. Mayer, Au.D., CCC-A (see all)

When we think about the possibility of hearing loss, many of us this it is inevitable. Indeed, our ears tend to lose their sensitivity to sound over the years, and most people in advanced years have some limitations to their prior hearing ability. Even though it is likely to lose hearing ability, that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing you can do about it! Among the many preventative measures to ward off hearing loss, including wearing hearing protection and limiting exposure to loud sounds, new research has suggested that a healthy diet might be correlated with lower rates of hearing loss. Let’s take a look at the research, as well as the ways that nutrition can improve our lives.

Hearing Loss and Healthy Eating

The exploratory study took place under the direction of researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Although the demographic of the research respondents was not representative, the study pointed to the possibility of a correlation between healthy eating and lower rates of hearing loss. The researchers set up 19 different testing locations throughout the United States and recruited women to record their hearing levels at a baseline and again after three years. The rates of hearing loss were then matched with reported eating behaviors. The researchers were interested to know if these diets matched two diets that have been proven to be related to many positive health measures: the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) and Mediterranean Diets. The results were striking! Those women who followed something like a DASH or Mediterranean diet over the last 20 years had significantly less hearing loss, particularly in the mid-range that is crucial to spoken communication, than their counterparts with less healthy diets. Another surprise in the research was the rate of hearing loss demonstrated in general among the respondents who were an average of 59 years old. Nearly half of the research subjects had hearing loss in the high range, and 38% had hearing loss in the midrange. With such striking numbers overall, it is important to consider the ways to prevent hearing loss. Future research is necessary to examine the effects on men, other ages of women, and other demographic groups, because this study emphasized white women between the ages of 50 and 65.

Characteristics of a Healthy Diet

With these surprising results, you might be curious what a DASH or Mediterranean diet entails. These two diets have a lot in common. Both emphasize whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables. They both require that red meats and sugary treats are limited. Where they differ is in the fine print. The DASH diet is low fat in general, both in terms of total fat and saturated fat. The Mediterranean diet encourages the use of olive oil and seafood, and it allows wine in moderation. Otherwise the diets are very similar. How does this translate to your own nutritional habits? It is better to think in terms of the delicious things you an eat rather than the limitations. Imagine making a platter of fresh vegetables, olives, feta cheese, hummus, and whole grain bread, all with a glass of red wine to wash it down. Not bad, right? This Mediterranean meal hits the bases of the healthy diet as well as being satisfying and delicious. The next day you might consider eating a filet of fish, steamed vegetables, and a pilaf of delicious rice and grains, with the classic glass of wine on the side. Although it might seem like a struggle to cut back on beef and desserts, these satisfying meals can make it easy to transform your way of eating.

The health benefits of the DASH or Mediterranean diet are countless, including feelings of wellbeing, energy, disease prevention, weight loss, mental health, and we now believe prevention of hearing loss, as well.

South Shore Hearing Center

If you are concerned about your hearing ability, don’t delay scheduling a hearing exam to see where you are. It doesn’t hurt to establish a baseline even for those who don’t feel like their hearing is going away. Your healthy diet just might help you achieve the same results when you return for your next hearing test!