Two Nutrients That Protect Against Hearing Loss

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Can you hear me now? How about now? Well, if you can’t, you’re not alone. Many people — both old and young — suffer from hearing loss. This video provides some good information about hearing loss and tinnitus.

While turning down the volume and using ear plugs in exceptionally loud situations — such as rock concerts — are obviously important, I was amazed to learn that your diet can actually help you protect your hearing. In fact, studies are showing two dietary nutrients — omega-3 fatty acids and folate — play an important role in protecting your hearing.

Omega-3 fatty acids

First, let’s look at omega-3 fatty acids. Researchers have found that eating two or more servings of fish weekly is linked to a 20 percent decreased risk of hearing loss. It also does not matter what type of fish you eat since they all provide some level of omega-3 fatty acids. Researchers hypothesize that a higher intake of this nutrient supports healthy blood flow to the inner ear, thus providing protection. Furthermore, the researchers also found that consuming more fish actually slowed the progression of sensory loss in people who were already experiencing a decline in their hearing.

While fish (sardines, salmon and shrimp) are considered some of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, you can also find this nutrient in the following foods:

  • Flaxseeds
  • Walnuts
  • Beef
  • Soybeans
  • Tofu
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cauliflower

Folate

Studies have also found that a deficiency in folate is associated with a 35 percent increased risk of hearing loss in people who are 50 years of age and older. This deficiency is believed to increase homocysteine levels, which results in restricted blood flow to the ear’s cochlea. This part of the ear is responsible for converting sound into electrical signals that the brain can understand.

The best dietary sources of folate, which is a type of B vitamin, include:

  • Lentils
  • Pinto beans
  • Garbanzo beans
  • Asparagus
  • Spinach
  • Navy beans
  • Kidney beans
  • Turnip greens
  • Broccoli

Other good sources include bok choy, parsley, romaine lettuce, cauliflower, beets, papayas, strawberries, oranges, pineapple, raspberries, kiwi, cantaloupe, lemons and limes.  According to the George Mateljan Foundation, if you eat five cups of vegetables, a couple servings of fresh fruits and a legume-based meal daily, you are probably getting enough folate in your diet. Still pregnant women are advised to take "prenatal vitamins" that contain folate to decrease the chance that their babies develop neurological problems.

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Primary sources for this sharepost:

George Mateljan Foundation. (ND). Folate.
George Mateljan Foundation. (ND). Omega-3 Fatty Acids.
Graves, G. (2015). New Health Rules at 30, 40, 50, 60. More Magazine.
Mantica, A. (2011). Hard of Hearing? Eat This. Eatingwell.com.