As we age, the more likely it is that we will develop hearing loss. In fact, age-related hearing loss (presbycusis) is one of the most common conditions affecting older and elderly adults. Approximately one in three people in the United States between the ages of 65 and 74 has hearing loss, and nearly half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing. There are a number of reasons for losing hearing as you age. Just like other parts of the body, the ear and its nerve pathways can change over time. In addition, certain diseases and medical treatments can be toxic to the ears. Long-term exposure to sounds that are too loud or last too long can also cause hearing loss. Now researchers are finding that the food you eat as you age can make a big difference to how well you hear later in life.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a major risk factor for stroke and heart disease, and can also contribute to hearing loss. When your blood pressure is high, the blood pushes through your arteries very fast, which can damage the lining of artery walls, allowing fatty plaque to build up. This damage can affect every aspect of your body, including your ears. And when the blood vessels in your ears are damaged it can damage the fragile structure of your ears that rely on proper blood pressure to function correctly.
Certain dietary patterns seem to protect against high blood pressure, inflammation, and other undesirable conditions. Scientists have wondered whether certain dietary patterns might affect hearing. To investigate, Drs. Gary C. Curhan and Sharon G. Curhan of Brigham and Women’s Hospital analyzed questionnaire responses from about 71,000 women every four years between 1991 and 2013. Using mailed questionnaires, the research team asked the women every 4 years about their eating habits over the past year and they were also asked whether they had developed a moderate or severe hearing problem.
The team used the reports of food intake to calculate scores for three healthy dietary patterns: the alternate Mediterranean diet (AMED), Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), and the 2010 Alternative Healthy Eating Index (AHEI-2010). The Mediterranean Diet is based on fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, legumes, and olive oil. DASH diet is designed to lower blood pressure and encourages fruits, vegetables, nuts, lean meats, fish, and low-fat dairy, and limits sodium, sugar, and fat. Similar to the other two diets, AHEI-2010 was developed by the US Department of Agriculture and encourages the consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and limits sugar, salt, and animal fat.
Over the study period, 2,306 women reported having developed moderate or worse hearing loss. The researchers found that women whose dietary patterns most resembled AMED or DASH had about a 30% lower risk of hearing loss than those that did not subscribe to those diets. Those who didn’t have AMED or DASH dietary patterns also seemed to be more likely to smoke and have high blood pressure, and less likely to be physically active.
In the fight to keep your body healthy and functioning properly, vitamins and minerals play an important role. To make protect your hearing into your golden years, here are some key nutrients and the foods rich in them to prioritize.
Now that there is proof that a healthy diet protects against hearing loss, we have one more reason to strive to eat right when we can for a healthier future. If you suspect you have a hearing loss contact us at Hearing Aid Specialists of the Central Coast. We can help you find solutions to your hearing needs so you can continue to live and hear healthy into your golden years.