Our food choices have a bigger impact on our overall health than we may suspect. Not only do our food choices influence our energy levels, mood, and overall health—but it can also increase the risk of hearing loss. A heart healthy diet is one which helps to reduce inflammation, improve cell health, and promotes healthy circulation. In addition, a prominent study investigated the connection between a heart healthy diet and an increased risk of hearing loss.
The Link Between Diet and Your Ears
So how can what we eat affect our hearing? To understand the effect, it is important to understand how we hear. While we collect sound with our ears, the process of hearing is not completed until the sounds reach our brain. Our ears send sound to our brain via tiny hairlike cells called stereocilia, which convert audio waves into electrical impulses. These cells rely on a health supply of oxygenated blood to maintain optimal health. However, when our heart health or blood pressure are at risk due to poor eating choices it also puts the health of the stereocilia in our inner ear, at risk.
In 2019, to identify the beneficial effects of a heart healthy diet on hearing, researchers at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts examined how diet affects hearing in over 3,000 women. They examined their dietary choices over three years and cross referenced it with the results of hearing exams to identify correlations between the two.
A Heart Healthy Diet is a Hearing Healthy Diet
The results of the study showed that eating a heart-healthy diet most definitely supports better hearing. In fact, women in the study who ate a healthy diet, were 25% less likely to develop a hearing loss!
So, what is a healthy diet?
A heart healthy diet is one which prioritizes vegetables, whole grains, fruits, and lean proteins, while avoiding processed sugars and foods. The women in the study who displayed the best results for hearing health seemed to follow several different healthy diets which included:
- AMED (alternate Mediterranean diet): This diet is based on foods which can be harvested in the region around the Mediterranean Sea and included, vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, legumes, fish, and olive oil as well as a sparing glass of wine with a meal.
- DASH (the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension): This diet is designed to lower blood pressure by encouraging limited salt or sodium intake in addition to prioritizing vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, and other whole foods. It is important to read labels of processed foods as sodium levels can often be surprisingly high.
- AHEI-2010 (the 2010 Alternative Healthy Eating Index): Similar to the DASH, this diet encourages vegetables and fruits, while discouraging sugar, sodium, and animal fat.
Vitamins and Minerals
The vegetables, fruits, and even animals that we eat absorb minerals and vitamins from the soil. These minerals and vitamins support the systems of our body in many ways, from keeping our electrolytes in balance to supporting cell health. Some minerals and vitamins in particular support healthy hearing. This includes:
- Magnesium—important for heart health, this mineral is essential in regulating blood pressure which is essential to healthy hearing. In addition, it helps to strengthen bones which surprisingly also supports the tiny ossicles (three of the tiniest bones in the body) of the middle ear. Foods rich in magnesium include nuts, seeds, whole grains, and even dark chocolate (yum!).
- Potassium—this mineral regulates the fluid balance of our cells and helps to regulate blood pressure as well. Healthy cells with the correct balance of fluid in the inner ears, will support healthy hearing. You’ll find high levels of potassium in potatoes, spinach, tomatoes, yogurt, and several fruits.
- Folic acid—this mineral reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke by aiding in the formation of healthy new cells, while increasing circulation throughout the entire body—including the ears. Folic acid can be found in high doses in organ meats, asparagus, and legumes.
Do You Have Hearing Loss?
Are you struggling with hearing loss? While a healthy diet can’t change existing hearing loss, it can help to prevent further decline. If you have hearing loss, we recommend you schedule a hearing exam with us today. We can come up with solutions to treat hearing loss and find ways to help you enjoy healthier hearing for years to come.