How many of us ring in the New Year with goals and resolutions? Plans to exercise more, get out of debt, eat healthier, quit smoking, lose weight, and the list goes on and on. While many of these resolutions can help us improve our health and wellbeing, eating healthier may also help prevent hearing loss according to much of the newest research coming out.
Diet and hearing health
Many of us are familiar with the benefits of a healthy diet thanks to our physicians, dietitians, and many of the headlines crowding websites, magazines and newspapers. Eating well has been linked to a lower risk of cancer and heart disease, improved mood, lower risk of depression and anxiety, improved memory and cognitive function in addition to a healthy weight and stronger immune system. What’s new is the link to better hearing health.
Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, using 20 years of data from the Nurses’ Health Study II Conservation of Hearing Study (CHEARS), have identified a connection between diet and hearing health. Along with this data, the team studied three years’ worth of information from assisting audiologists measuring changes in pure-tone hearing thresholds across almost 20 locations in the United States.
What did they find? Those women who followed a healthy diet had an almost 30% lower risk of mid-frequency hearing loss than those who did not and nearly 25% lower risk of developing hearing loss in the higher frequencies. It is these frequencies that most affect the understanding of speech according to the research team.
These findings support previous work from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital that looked specifically at hearing loss risk in those following the Alternate Mediterranean diet (AMED), Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), and the Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010 (AHEI-2010).
What is a healthy diet?
There are many definitions of a “healthy diet” depending on who you ask, but experts stress that there are several foundational components to a healthy eating plan. It’s these components that seem to be most strongly associated with hearing health based on these research findings. To start supporting your hearing health with a healthy diet, follow these recommendations:
Eat mostly plants – A wide variety of fruits and vegetables should make up the largest portion of your meals to support your hearing health. That means at least half of your plate with whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats to round out your meals. Fruits and veggies are loaded with vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and fiber that are powerhouses for health.
Focus on balance – Many make the mistake of going for perfection, but dietitians and health experts stress that sticking with a healthy diet for the long term requires eating mostly healthy foods, while still enjoying the occasional indulgences.
Limit the not-so-beneficial foods – Processed grain products, processed meats, refined sugar, and alcohol offer little to no benefits for your health and hearing. Many have been linked to chronic inflammation and illness.
Don’t forget hearing-friendly foods – To add extra power to your diet for hearing health, include nutrients (and foods) like these, all of which have been linked to hearing health benefits:
Omega 3 fatty acids – Flaxseed oil, fatty fish like salmon, etc.
Magnesium + Vitamins A, C, E – Guava, tofu, sweet potatoes, etc.
Folate – Dark leafy greens, legumes, etc.
Potassium – Chard, potatoes, etc.
Make your next resolution and meal count for more! Support your hearing health with a healthy diet and schedule a hearing evaluation to help prevent hearing loss.