The wide-ranging benefits of a heart-healthy diet are commonly known: more energy, strengthened immune system, improved blood flow, enhanced wellness, etc. These benefits can significantly reduce the development of various medical conditions: cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, etc. A heart-healthy diet can also reduce the risk of developing hearing loss, the third most common chronic condition that people navigate today. Hearing loss impacts over 48 million people and according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), nearly 1 in 5 people have some degree of impaired hearing. Identifying risk factors that can be modified through lifestyle changes is critical to prevention. Research has shown that diet is a modifiable factor and that by eating a heart-healthy diet lowers the risk of hearing loss.
Link Between Diet and Hearing Loss
Various studies identify the correlation between diet and hearing loss. Significant research in this area includes a study published in 2019 in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Conducted by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (Boston, Massachusetts), researchers found that people following a heart-healthy diet had a substantially lower risk of developing hearing loss.
- Study: researchers comprehensively evaluated the hearing capacity of 3,135 women across the United States over a three-year period. Additionally, their dietary intake information was collected for over 20 years.
- Findings: Compared to the participants who were not practicing a healthy diet, the participants following heart-healthy diets were:
- 30% less likely to develop mid-frequency hearing loss
- 25% less likely to develop high-frequency hearing loss
These significant statistics reveal that hearing loss and diet are related and that practicing a healthier diet can reduce the risk of its development. In discussing these results, Dr. Sharon Curhan, a physician and co-author of the study stated: “the association between diet and hearing sensitivity decline encompassed frequencies that are critical for speech understanding”.
Heart-Healthy Diets & Hearing Health
Researchers found that participants who experienced reduced risk of hearing loss were following diets that closely resemble the following patterns:
- DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension): emphasizes reducing or maintaining healthy blood pressure by eating foods that are low in sodium and high in nutrients that contribute to lowering blood pressure: calcium, potassium, and magnesium. This pattern involves vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy, limited amounts of whole grains (in addition to nuts, fish, and poultry).
- AMED (Alternate Mediterranean): similarly, this approach to eating highlights increased intake of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and fish. AMED also recommends dairy in moderation and eliminating refined sugars, grains, oils and processed food.
- AHEI-2010 (Alternate Healthy Index-2010): this diet emphasizes specific foods that help prevent chronic diseases – vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
It is important to note that these diets are more so approaches to eating that are more general than prescriptive. They emphasize:
- Plant-based foods: vegetables, fruits, whole grains
- Eliminating processed foods
- Having meat and dairy in moderation
In addition to these heart-healthy ways of eating, there are specific nutrients that are beneficial for hearing health.
Beneficial Nutrients for Hearing Health
There are several nutrients and minerals that are great for a healthy auditory system. This includes the following:
- Magnesium: helps protect the hair cells in the inner ear. There are thousands of hair cells in each ear that help translate soundwaves into electrical signals that are then sent to the brain to further process. Foods rich in magnesium include: artichoke, broccoli, spinach, almonds, and potatoes.
- Potassium: supports healthy fluid levels in the inner ear, which supports the hair cells in translating incoming soundwaves. Potassium-rich foods include bananas, mushrooms, peas, and cucumbers.
- Omega 3: known to help prevent inflammation and low blood pressure. Foods rich in omega 3 include: fish, flaxseed, and soybeans.
- Folic Acid: supports maintaining and generating cells in the body which includes the cells in the ear. Foods rich in folic acid include: beans, lentils, and asparagus.
Taking the steps to integrate heart-healthy eating practices into your daily diet can drastically improve the quality of your life. Not only can it reduce the risk of developing hearing loss but it also provides energy and sustains overall wellness!
If you have experienced changes in your hearing, it is important to take a hearing test. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!