Posted August 3, 2018
It’s natural to experience hearing loss as you age. But, hearing experts have wondered whether there are lifestyle factors, such as dietary habits, that could lower the risk of hearing loss. Over the past 22 years, researchers studied this question and found surprising results. Here’s an update on how the foods you eat can affect your hearing.
Impact of hearing loss
Over 48 million Americans have some form of hearing loss. Medical experts report that untreated hearing loss can impact people’s health in many ways. Common symptoms include increased headaches, stress, high blood pressure, depression, fatigue, muscle tension, and problems with memory. Often people with hearing loss withdraw from conversations and activities they previously enjoyed.
How it happens
Years ago scientists determined that hearing loss can occur from diseases, prescription medications, and prolonged exposure to loud noises. Some researchers also found that a shortage of specific nutrients could impact hearing loss. But a connection was not established between different diets and hearing loss until now.
Diet and your hearing
Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital studied dietary habits and hearing changes in nearly 82,000 women over two decades. The participants were mostly non-Hispanic white women, who at the start of the study were ages 27 to 44. The women followed one of these three diets:
- AMED – The Alternate Mediterranean diet promotes eating high amounts of fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, legumes and olive oil; medium amounts of fish, poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt; and low amounts of red meat and sweets.
- DASH – The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet is higher in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meat and low-fat dairy; and lower in high-fat meat, full-fat dairy, tropical oils, sugar and salt.
- AHEI-2010 – The Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010 diet features a combination of the AMED and DASH diets with emphasis on eating vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, whole grains and poultry or fish or plant protein; and limiting amounts of red meat, sugar, salt and alcohol.
The study found that women who closely followed the AMED or DASH diets had a 30 percent lower risk of hearing loss. And the reduced risk for hearing loss was better than 30 percent for those following the AHEI-2010 diet. Overall, researchers concluded that the quality of foods people consume, such as whole vs. processed, can help reduce their risk of developing hearing loss.