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

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?

January/February 2011