The older you get, the more likely you are to experience some degree of hearing loss. Over the age of 65, almost one out of every two people has lost some hearing as have about 25 percent of those between the ages of 55 and 64. In addition to aging, exposure to loud noises can damage hearing, even when you’re young.
Some recent evidence suggests that it may be possible to prevent – or at least reduce – hearing loss through your diet. A diet rich in beta-carotene, vitamin C and magnesium can help protect against age-related hearing loss, as well as that related to noise exposure. This association has been observed in a number of animal studies, as well as in the results of a human study conducted by an international team of researchers from South Korea, the U.S. and Canada, published in 2013. The study participants, 2,592 men and women between the ages of 20 and 69 all living in the U.S., had their hearing tested and later were interviewed about what they had eaten in the previous 24 hours. Their self-reported exposure to noise was also factored in. After assessing the results of the participants’ hearing tests, noise exposure and dietary information, the researchers found that those with higher intakes of beta-carotene, vitamin C and magnesium had better hearing. (Beta-carotene is found in many yellow and orange fruits and vegetables. You can get vitamin C from citrus fruits, and magnesium from green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts and whole grains.)
The researchers noted that the formation of free radicals in the inner ear is a key factor in hearing loss. The protective effect of antioxidants, such as beta-carotene and vitamin C, may be due to inhibition of free radical formation.
Other research, from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, found that a healthy diet may help prevent hearing loss in women. It showed that women whose diets were healthiest had a 30 percent lower risk of hearing loss as they aged compared to women whose diets were less healthy. Specifically, the researchers found that the risk of hearing loss was lowest in women who best adhered to versions of the Mediterranean Diet and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH). The investigative team followed 70,966 women in the Nurses’ Health Study II for 22 years and collected dietary information from them every four years. Hearing loss was self-reported, but the researchers noted that detailed hearing-related information from more than 33,000 of the women suggested that the reduced risk attributable to healthy diets may be even higher than 30 percent.
If you’re eating well, and have been eating well, chances are you have a lower than average risk of experiencing age-related hearing loss.
Andrew Weil, M.D.
Sung Kyun Park et al, “Antioxidant vitamins and magnesium and the risk of hearing loss in the US general population,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, January 2014, doi:10.3945/ajcn.113.068437
Sharon G. Curhan et al, “Adherence of Healthful Dietary Patterns Is Associated with Lower Risk of Hearing Loss in Women.” The Journal of Nutrition, May 11, 2018, doi.org/10.1093/jn/nxy05