How a Heart-Healthy Diet Supports Better Hearing

In Hearing Health 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)

Adopting a healthy diet has long been recognized as a way to begin improving your overall health. Making healthy food choices can reduce harmful cholesterol levels, improve circulation and organ function, relieve inflammation and boost a wide host of other benefits. Now, recent research is pointing to ways in which a balanced diet improves our hearing health. 

In a study spanning 20 years that examined data concerning diet and hearing loss in a group of female health care workers, a clear connection was found between dietary patterns and hearing loss risk. Previously, correlations have been made between hearing loss and specific vitamins and minerals that reinforce our hearing in specific ways. Nutrients like vitamin A, zinc and potassium all have been shown to play an important role in maintaining hearing health. This new research shows the comprehensive effect of taking the entirety of diet into account.

What Is a Heart-Healthy Diet?

Eating to improve your cardiac fitness means favoring nutrients from largely plant-based sources and whole foods, reducing fat and sugar intake and minimizing empty calories consumed. The recent diet and hearing study, coming from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, considered three models of heart healthy eating: the DASH diet “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension”, the 2010 Alternate Healthy Index and the Alternate Mediteranean Diet. 

With each of these eating plans representing dietary changes that have real positive impact on cardiac health, the study then ranked participants on their adherence to the parameters of the dietary plan. 

Hearing Loss and Healthy Eating

Assessing two decades of observed data, the study pointed to some distinct conclusions. Heart healthy diets serve the auditory system as well as the cardiovascular system. Women in the study who followed strict adherence to heart-healthy diet protocol were up to 30% less likely to develop significant hearing loss than those who did not follow a heart-healthy dietary plan. 

The length of the study’s scope allowed research to observe subjects at critical ages between 50 and 65 where the risk of hearing loss naturally increases significantly. Rather than recommending certain nutrients for hearing health, this study demonstrates that the larger, more relevant prescription may be for changes in larger dietary patterns rather than tweaking eating habits with specific foods or supplements.

Hearing Loss and Heart Health

One long-established connection that may support the link between heart-healthy eating and healthy hearing is that cardiac health issues go hand in hand with increased rates of hearing loss. Understanding how this works is not intuitive, but it does make sense. When cardiac disease is present, medical professionals will often recognize it as a potential precursor to hearing loss. The reasons for this are in the tiny structures of the inner ear that we rely on for our hearing. 

Our inner ear is a critical command center for our sense of hearing. Lined with tiny sensory cells, the inner ear picks up sound waves in the air and translates their vibration into electrical signals sent to the brain. The delicate sensory cells give us our nuanced sense of hearing, but they can be easily and permanently damaged. A damaged hair cell cannot repair itself and so leaves a gap in our ability to hear. 

Cardiac disease introduces a threat for these cells – malnourishment and even starvation. While hair cells are mostly damaged by exposure to dangerously loud noise, they also depend on a network of small blood vessels to deliver the oxygen and nourishment they require to function properly. Cardiac issues can restrict blood vessels and hamper blood delivery, shortchanging delicate areas like the inner ear. Deprived of nutrition, hair cells can essentially starve to death if the blood vessels aren’t functioning properly. 

By improving heart health, better diets can also improve hearing loss risk by making it easier for the circulatory system to thoroughly nourish the inner ear. 

Healthy Hearing

No matter what you’ve been eating, healthy hearing is for everyone, and we can help you connect with the best preventative care for your ears. Facing changes in the way you hear? It’s time to get a hearing exam. Our comprehensive testing can locate any issues and connect you with solutions. Contact us today.