Healthy Hearing: Can Healthier Lifestyles Lead to Better Hearing??

Despite all of the amazing advances being made in modern medical science, there is still no known cure for hearing loss. However, the question we can ask is “Are there things you can do to prevent hearing loss or further deterioration of your hearing?”

We are all well aware that cardiovascular disease can be deadly for your heart, but did you know it may also be detrimental to your hearing? Research indicates that those with cardiovascular disease are 54% more likely to have a hearing impairment.  Researchers believe the connection between heart disease and hearing loss lies in the ability of the cardiovascular system to provide blood supply to the inner ear. The inner ear is responsible for interpreting the sounds we collect with our outer ears into the signals our brain interprets to hear. The blood vessels in the inner ear are so dependent on good blood flow, that researchers even believe that a diagnosis of low frequency hearing impairment may be a good indicator of existing or impending heart disease. So, what can you do? Getting off the couch is one good way to lessen your chances of developing both conditions. During exercise, the cardiovascular system has to work to supply oxygen and other nutrients to all parts of the body. Those who exercise consistently develop efficient, stress-free cardiovascular systems which provide better blood flow throughout the body. Other ways you can improve the health of your cardiovascular system include limiting your use of alcohol, tobacco, and recreational and prescription drugs. These factors cause blood vessel restriction, and especially in the case of alcohol and tobacco, weaken your immune system.

Diabetes is a disease that affects more than 26 million children and adults in the United States and is a major cause of heart disease and stroke.  In July 2008, the National Institute of Health (NIH) found that individuals with diabetes are twice as likely to have hearing loss as those who don’t have the disease. Even those who have elevated blood glucose levels but haven’t yet developed diabetes are 30% more likely to have hearing loss than those with normal blood glucose levels. If you are overweight, talk to your doctor about a diet and exercise program. Losing weight and regulating your blood sugar are beneficial for the blood vessels and nerves in your inner ear as well as your overall health.

Good nutrition has been shown to reduce the incidence of hearing loss in the aging baby boomer crowd, or at least act to slow down the loss of hearing associated with age.  Fish contains Omega-3 fatty acids, a well-studied nutrient that delivers a wide variety of health benefits, including a reduction in hearing loss. If you eat two servings of fresh fish each week, you may lower the risk of experiencing hearing loss by 42% if you are 50-years-old or older! The study, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, also pointed out that supplements of Omega-3 (long-chain omega-3 fatty acids) lowered the risk of hearing loss by 14% – a number significantly large enough to add these supplements to your daily diet. Omega-3 supplements come in the form of fish oil capsules as well as pure fish oil.

Other studies have shown that certain micronutrients – vitamins, minerals and compounds – can also lessen the likelihood of hearing loss related to age. A report released in 2007 showed that folic acid could contribute to delayed presbycusis (age-related hearing loss) in the lower frequency ranges of sound. Folic acid is found in green leafy veggies, like broccoli, lettuce and kale. It is also usually included in the mixture of nutrients contained in multiple-vitamin supplements.  Another study recommends eating more beta carotene as a way to stave off premature hearing loss. You’ll find this micronutrient in orange and yellow vegetables like carrots (an excellent source of beta carotene), yellow beans, and other colorful fruits and vegetables.

Other nutrients that have been studied as possible defenders against hearing loss include:

  • Vitamin C found in citrus fruits
  • Magnesium – a mineral found in many vegetables
  • Vitamin E – again, found in fish including shellfish

So, what can you do?? I’d like to suggest that the solution might be as easy as “eat your veggies, take your vitamins and get more exercise.” With the New Year right around the corner, there is no time like the present to set some goals to be healthier and hear better! As always, it is recommended that you discuss this and all changes to your lifestyle with your physician prior to starting an exercise regimen or taking any dietary supplements.

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