Researchers found that adhering to healthy eating plans, such as the Mediterranean Diet, led to a lower likelihood of mid-frequency and high-frequency hearing loss.
Healthy diets have benefits that extend beyond conferring a lower risk of chronic diseases. A study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital found they helped prevent a loss of hearing sensitivity.
The protection offered was significant because it involved hearing frequencies needed to understand speech.
A healthy diet may help prevent hearing loss by a number of mechanisms, which involve protection against oxidative damage, along with improvement of beneficial blood lipids and endothelial function.
In the research, scientists used data collected in the Nurses’ Health Study II Conservation of Hearing Study to monitor changes in hearing sensitivity over three years.
They observed that women whose diets most closely resembled the Mediterranean diet (MedDiet), the Alternate Healthy Index-2010 (AHEI-2010) and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) showed considerably less decline in hearing sensitivity.See Also: Olive Oil Health Benefits
According to lead author Sharon Curhan, a physician and epidemiologist in the Brigham’s Channing Division of Network Medicine, a loss of hearing due to aging is not unavoidable.
“A common perception is that hearing loss is an inevitable part of the aging process. However, our research focuses on identifying potentially modifiable risk factors — that is, things that we can change in our diet and lifestyle to prevent hearing loss or delay its progression,” she said.
Earlier research indicates that a reduced likelihood of self-reported hearing decline is linked to higher consumption of certain foods. These include fish, leafy greens and beans, as well as carrots, oranges and other fruits and vegetables. In the recent study, the scientists endeavored to build on these findings by examining food intake and objectively assessing hearing sensitivity.
With this intent, the researchers used 20 years of food intake records collected every four years and investigated how eating patterns resembled the three commonly recommended healthy diets: the MedDiet, AHEI-2010 and DASH. Adherence to each of these diets has been linked to healthy aging, along with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases.
The results revealed that women who most closely followed the healthy diets had a 30 percent lower likelihood of mid-frequency sound hearing loss. They also had a 25 percent lower risk of high-frequency hearing decline.
“The association between diet and hearing sensitivity decline encompassed frequencies that are critical for speech understanding,” Curhan said. “We were surprised that so many women demonstrated hearing decline over such a relatively short period of time. The mean age of the women in our study was 59 years; most of our participants were in their 50s and early 60s. This is a younger age than when many people think about having their hearing checked.”
“Acquired hearing loss can result from the cumulative influence of many factors,” Curham told Olive Oil Times. “These consist of reduced blood flow to the cochlea, the main organ of hearing in the inner ear; injury from low oxygen; oxidative damage; inflammation; and neurodegeneration along auditory pathways.”
“A healthy diet may help prevent hearing loss by a number of mechanisms, which involve protection against oxidative damage, along with improvement of beneficial blood lipids and endothelial function,” Curham added. “Eating nutritious foods also may lower blood pressure and inflammation — advantages that promote better blood flow and reduce neurodegeneration.”
Based on the findings, the authors concluded that a healthy diet may decrease the risk of acquired hearing loss.
“Given that hearing loss is so common, a 30 percent lower risk is considerable,” Curham said.
The study was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.