Listen up: These Healthy Nutrition Plans Could Keep Your Hearing Sharp

Photo: Getty Images/Marija Babic and EyeEm
The fact that how you eat affects your mind and body is hardly breaking news. And if you're not yet thinking about how the food on your plate impacts auditory health, you're about to get an earful. A new study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology suggests that specific diets may slow hearing loss with age.

Past studies have linked certain nutrients and foods (such as folate, which is found in legumes, leafy greens, and elsewhere) to a lower risk of self-reported hearing loss, but the researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital sought to analyze how specific eating plans could affect hearing sensitivity. To do so, they set up testing locations at nine testing sites throughout the United States and trained audiologists to measure changes in people's hearing thresholds over time.

Over 20 years after the start of the project, researchers found that women who followed the DASH diet, the Mediterranean diet, and Alternate Healthy Index-2010 (a plan designed to combat chronic disease risk) were nearly 30 percent less likely to experience a decline in mid-frequency hearing (that is, the frequency of a human voice) than those who had less healthy diets. The odds were even lower at higher frequencies.

"The association between diet and hearing sensitivity decline encompassed frequencies that are critical for speech understanding," said Sharon Curhan, MD, who helped lead and author the study. Since Dr. Curhan and her team studied predominantly white women between the ages of 50 and 60, further research is needed to reach conclusions. However, the study offers a valuable reminder that the health of your ears is something to consider no matter your age.

"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." So when you serve yourself up some omega-3 rich fish, leafy greens, and fiber-rich quinoa, remember—you're giving a shoutout to your ear health.

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