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Hard of Hearing? Eat This.

By Ana Mantica, "Hard of Hearing? Eat This.," January/February 2011

What to eat to reduce your risk of age-related hearing loss

Are you often asking others to repeat themselves and speak up(!)? Research suggests that a healthy dose of two nutrients—folate and omega-3 fatty acids—may help prevent age-related hearing loss.

New findings published in the Journal of Nutrition suggest that low levels of the B-vitamin folate (found in spinach, black-eyed peas and other leafy greens and beans) are associated with a 35 percent higher risk of hearing loss in people 50 and over. Researchers looked at nearly 3,000 people in the Australia-based Blue Mountains Hearing Study and found that a folate deficiency causes homocysteine levels to increase (a known risk factor for heart disease), which in turn could restrict blood flow to the cochlea—the part of the ear that converts sound energy into electrical signals that travel to the brain.

In a separate study of the same participants, the authors found that those who ate two or more servings of fish a week were less likely to develop age-related hearing loss compared to people who had less than a serving a week. Plus, among participants who already had some hearing loss, those who ate more fish saw its progression slow. Researchers think that the omega-3s in fish and their anti-inflammatory properties help to lower a person’s vascular risk factors—such as high blood pressure—which, in turn, could help to protect against hearing loss.

“Omega-3s could potentially help maintain a healthy vascular supply to the cochlea, thereby preventing age-related hearing loss,” says study author Bamini Gopinath, Ph.D. “And it’s possible that folate can, too, but more research is needed.” Can you hear us now?



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