We often talk about protecting our hearing with items like earplugs. Ear plugs help protect your hearing from noise induced damage. Did you know that a healthy lifestyle, proper nutrition and exercise helps protect your hearing from age related hearing loss (presbycusis)?
The inner ear contains the sensory organs for hearing and just like all organs it relies on a healthy blood supply to deliver oxygen and nutrients. Some nutrients strengthen the blood vessels in the ear allowing for improved blood flow while others fight free radicals that are capable of damaging tissues.
After researching a series of different articles on nutrition, we’ve condensed several ideas into this post. Here is a short list of foods that can help protect your hearing.
Omega 3 fatty acids & Vitamin D
Fish such as tuna, salmon, sardines, mackerel and liver oil, all contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids as well as vitamin D. Both have been shown to help with maintaining healthy hearing. One study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that just one serving of fish a week could reduce the risk of developing age-related hearing loss (presbycusis) by as much as 42%. The study also showed an association between the consumption of 1 to 2 servings a week of fish and a reduced progression hearing loss.
Fish contains two types of omega-3 fatty acids, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid).
If you are not a fan of fish you can still get your DHA and EPA from the common chicken egg. The food industry has recognized the public’s interest in eating healthy and has gone so far as to market eggs that are high in omega-3 fatty acids. The high levels of omega-3’s are achieved by feeding the laying hens grains that are high in omega-3 fatty acids.
If you are a vegetarian or just looking for a non-animal source of omega-3 fatty acids there are plenty of choices. Omega-3 fatty acids can also be found in plant oils where they are known as α-linolenic acid (ALA). Some common sources of ALA are walnuts, seeds such as flaxseed, chia and canola seed.
Why Omega-3 Fatty Acids?
Research shows that Omega-3 fats strengthen the blood vessels in our inner ear to improve blood flow to maintain it’s health and aid healing.
By Nillerdk [GFDL or CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Minerals: Zinc and Magnesium
A 2003 study examining the link between tinnitus and zinc found that 31% of the people in the group suffering from tinnitus had low levels of zinc. After receiving 50mg of zinc supplements daily for 2 months showed clinically favorable progress was detected in 46.4% of patients. Although after a thorough analysis the results were deemed not statistically significant, the severity of subjective tinnitus decreased in 82% of the patients receiving zinc.
Dietary sources of zinc include fish, oysters, scallops and shrimp. Grass feed beef and lamb along with sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds are also high in zinc. Our favorite source of zinc would have to be dark chocolate due to its high content of cocoa powder that is rich in the mineral zinc.
Magnesium has been shown to provide protection against noise induced hearing loss in both pre-and post exposure to loud “impulse” noises. The actual susceptibility of the inner ear’s tiny hair cell stereocilia to noise exposure was shown to increase with magnesium supplementation. Also, recovery from damage due to exposure to loud noise was shown to improve with magnesium supplementation immediately after the event.
Leafy green vegetables such as spinach and chard have a very high concentration of magnesium followed by pumpkin seeds, yogurt and almonds. As luck would have it dark chocolate is also a good source of magnesium.
Anti-Oxidants Help Prevent Hearing Loss
Antioxidants counter free radicals that are created as unwanted by-products of our metabolism. Free radicals are unstable molecules that cause damage at a cellular level due to “oxidative stress” that contributes to many chronic health problems.
A relatively recent study Role of oxidative stress in hearing impairment in patients with type two diabetes mellitus appeared in the Journal of Laryngeal Otol 2009, drew a correlation between hearing loss and low levels of the antioxidants nitric oxide, vitamin C and E.
Vitamins C and E help to keep free radicals in check and strengthen the immune system.
A healthy immune system is beneficial to your hearing by warding off potential ear infections that can cause damage to the eardrum, the bones of the ear, and the hearing nerve.
Dietary sources of antioxidants include green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, kale, and collard greens. Other vegetables such as red peppers, artichoke, and carrots also rank high in their content. Several berries including blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries all score high in anti-oxidants.
Foods to Avoid
Foods that are considered to create “oxidative stress” include hydrogenated fats, high sugar diets, and excessively high amount of animal protein in your diet. Health factors that are considered to stress our bodies include alcohol consumption, cigarettes, and several medications. The greatest risk factor though is often listed as being psychological and emotional stress.
Our hearing health, like so many of the body’s functions, depends on maintaining good overall health. this can be achieved through physical activity and proper general nutrition. We will be paying more attention to a well balance diet that includes zinc and magnesium, foods rich in anti-oxidants and omega-3 fatty acids. Not to mention the occasional dark chocolate bar!
Is someone you know asking you to repeat what you said a bit too often? It could be the first sign of hearing loss. To schedule an evaluation, just call the Polo Park Hearing Centre Monday to Friday between 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. or Saturday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. (204) 788-1083.