Hearing loss or hearing impairment is a common condition for people of all ages. Roughly 2 to 3 of every 1,000 children born in the United States are born with hearing loss in either one or both of their ears. Additionally, based on a collection of standard hearing evaluations, 1 in 8 people in the U.S. 12 years or older suffer from hearing loss in one or two of their ears. For people, ages 65 to 75, one-third of the population has some form of hearing loss, and once past age 75, that number jumps to one-half of the population.
What causes loss of hearing and can it be cured?
Causes for sensorineural hearing loss, the most common form of hearing loss include:
- Extreme exposure to loud noises
- Ototoxic drugs
Typically the damage will be done to the ear’s cochlea, also known as the inner ear. Inside the cochlea are rows of little hair cells that are responsible for hearing sound. Over time, the hair cells can get destroyed or badly damaged, causing hearing loss that is only reparable through the use of hearing aids or other listening devices.
Conductive hearing loss is another form of hearing loss, which typically comes from a blockage or damage done to the outer or middle ear. Tumors or excessive amounts of earwax are usually the cause for this. Conductive hearing loss is temporary and can usually be fixed by a professional through antibiotics, flushing of the ear canal for ear wax compaction, or surgery.
What can I do to improve my hearing and prevent hearing loss?
Aside from avoiding loud noises and taking appropriate medication, maintaining a healthy diet is a recommended way to keep your auditory system in good shape. Studies show that maintaining a diet that consists of fruits and vegetables can reduce your chances of hearing loss by 30 percent.
While there isn’t one nutrient that is directly attributed to good health, eating foods such as dark chocolate, bananas, spinach, and nuts all include nutrients that are linked to good hearing.
Another eating plan recommended by professionals is following a Mediterranean diet. This diet consists of plant-based foods such as whole grains and nuts, with olive and canola oil replacing butter, herbs and spices replacing salt, and fish and chicken as the meal’s protein.
If a strict diet isn’t for you, there are four different minerals available in a variety of foods that are linked to improved hearing. These minerals are potassium, zinc, folate and magnesium.
Benefits of Minerals to Improve Hearing
Potassium is largely responsible for regulating and maintaining the fluids in a person’s inner ear. As people get older, their fluid levels typically decrease, which can lead to hearing loss. Potassium is also effective in lowering one’s blood pressure. Potassium is found in various foods, such as tomatoes, potatoes, lima beans, raisins, apricots, bananas, spinach, melons, oranges, yogurt, and low-fat milk.
Zinc is a crucial mineral for the body’s immune system as it protects against germs and potential ear infections. Research shows a correlation between zinc deficiency in the human body and the development of tinnitus. Zinc also metabolizes nutrients and helps grow and repair worn down body tissue. Zinc is found in cells all over the body, but a person’s inner ear is what contains the greatest amount of zinc. Foods rich with zinc are chickpeas, lentils, beans, nuts, eggs, dairy products, dark chicken, and red meat.
Folate or folic acid is a B vitamin that regulates blood flow, increases body circulation, and helps in the creation of new body cells, all essential qualities in the functioning of the inner ear. Folate is usually supplemented by folic acid, its synthetic form often found in dietary supplements. Adults with low folate levels are more likely to develop hearing loss. Folate is found in foods such as spinach, broccoli, asparagus, beans, peas, lentils, and organ meats.
Lastly, magnesium assists in strengthening the body’s bones, maintaining a steady heart rhythm, and maintaining normal blood pressure. Consumption of magnesium is known to help the body react to loud noises, and in protecting the inner ear’s hair cells. Magnesium is found in many fruits and vegetables, dark chocolate, avocados, nuts, tofu, seeds, and whole grains.
Don’t Put off Your Hearing Until it’s too Late
Hearing loss is a cumulative process in which gradual damage is done to the auditory system over time. Due to its lengthy process, people don’t notice signals of hearing loss until it begins to disrupt their daily life.
To lessen the chances of prolonged untreated hearing damage, it’s important to schedule hearing consultations once a year and to be in touch with your doctor if you feel any discomfort.