Hearing loss is common among older adults, and men are almost twice as likely as women to experience hearing loss. According to the National Institute on Deafness, about 25 percent of American seniors aged 65 to 74 and 50 percent of those over 75 have disabling hearing loss. Untreated hearing loss can affect quality of life by making it difficult to enjoy spending time with others and may lead to social isolation. Difficulty hearing smoke alarms or emergency alerts can also be a danger for seniors.
In addition to regular hearing screenings, older adults can use many assistive devices to boost hearing. Lifestyle also plays a role in healthy hearing and eating a nutritious diet, stopping smoking, and maintaining a healthy body weight can also help promote better hearing. Although hearing loss cannot be reversed with dietary changes, a healthy Mediterranean Diet that avoids high levels of sodium, red and processed meats, and sugary drinks has been found to decrease the risk of developing hearing loss.
A recent 22-year study of more than 70,000 women found that diets that favour fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, legumes, whole grains, seafood, poultry and low-fat dairy can lower the risk of hearing loss by at least 30 percent. Vegetables that contain folic acid, potassium and zinc were associated with a positive effect on hearing. Potassium plays a role in the inner ear function that converts sound into signals the brain will interpret and zinc has been found to help treat tinnitus – a ringing or buzzing in the ear. Magnesium is thought to help protect the inner ear by fighting free radicals emitted during loud noises. Folic acid helps metabolize homocysteine and maintain regular blood flow to the inner ear.
Food for Hearing Health
- Potassium – found in bananas, potatoes and black beans
- Zinc – found in almonds, cashews and dark chocolate
- Folic acid – spinach, broccoli, and asparagus.
- Magnesium – almonds, avocado, tomato, broccoli
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids – salmon, sardines, mackerel, walnuts, flaxseeds
- Antioxidants – berries, leafy greens, citrus fruits
Controlling type 2 diabetes can also help prevent hearing loss caused by damage to inner ear blood vessels. Limiting starchy carbohydrates like white bread, rice or pasta which can spike blood glucose levels quickly can help control blood sugar levels. A recent UK study also found that a diet higher in vitamin D, fruits, vegetables, and protein was associated with a reduced risk of hearing difficulties while a diet high in fat was linked with a greater risk for tinnitus and hearing loss.