Health

Healthy Diets Linked to Lower Risk of Hearing Loss

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.

Dec. 20, 2019
By Mary West

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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.- Sharon Curhan, physi­cian and epi­demi­ol­o­gist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital

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 more: 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.

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“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.

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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.”

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“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.