As we get older, many of us find ourselves asking people to repeat things. We need to turn up the TV or for everyone to be silent to allow us to hear a specific noise. It’s frustrating. But it’s all just part of getting older, right?
“A common perception is that hearing loss is an inevitable part of the aging process,” said Sharon Curhan, from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the lead author on newly published research. “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. The benefits of adherence to healthful dietary patterns have been associated with numerous positive health outcomes, and eating a healthy diet may also help reduce the risk of hearing loss.”
Dr. Curhan and her team studied women who were, on average, 59-year-old. They found women who ate a healthy diet had significantly better hearing sensitivity. The women didn’t follow a special diet, they were just following balanced diet guidelines. The researchers checked in with participants every three years for over 20 years. That way, they would see long term patterns. Women who stuck to a healthy eating routine for long times had better hearing. In fact, they saw up to 30 percent less hearing loss in that group.
The women were following different diets, like the Mediterranean diet, DASH and the Alternative Healthy Index. So, it wasn’t a specific diet, more about eating plenty of healthy proteins, fats and complex carbs, and less sugar and junk food. The study isn’t over, the researchers are still following the women to get even longer-term results, but this find is significant.
Older research based on self-reporting has shown that nutrients in vegetables were linked to lower loss as well. Folate from food sources appears to help.
In some ways, it’s great that the women weren’t following a specific diet. While we might like having a cut-and-dried answer as to which diet is best, this may be more helpful. We don’t have to commit ourselves to one path. Simply lowering sweets and increasing veggies can help us maintain our hearing and stop our hearing loss from progressing. That seems like great news to us!