Each May, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) raises awareness about communication disorders for Better Hearing & Speech Month (BHSM).
In recognition of BHSM, we’ll be talking about lifestyle and diet changes you can make to better support your hearing health.
This post will focus on different diet and lifestyle changes that you can make to prevent hearing loss.
Vitamins and Supplements that Support Hearing
There is no conclusive proof that diet changes alone can improve or repair the hearing system. This is because most hearing loss is due to the structural damage to the cilia, the tiny hairs located inside the basilar membrane.
If you suspect you have a nutrient deficiency, you should check with your physician about the proper steps to take.
There are early indicators that magnesium may help support the hearing system in some way. One University of Michigan study found that “when magnesium was taken within 48 hours of the sudden hearing loss”. The researchers posit that this is because of the ability of magnesium to prevent the death of neuron cells, its ability to reach the blood vessels in the ears, as well as its effects on the blood vessels themselves.
Another common nutrient, Folic acid, (a B-vitamin) has been found to help reduce the prevalence of hearing issues. In the case of folic acid, it’s not so much that folic acid affects the ear at all. Rather, it reduces the toxic effects of a buildup of homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine is part of the chemicals used to make proteins in the body and when one has a properly balanced diet, B-vitamins usually break it down and turn it into other “building blocks” the body needs. Someone with hyperhomocysteinemia would have too much of this in their blood where it could then cause issues with many different parts of the body, including the ears. In the case of a diagnosis of hyperhomocysteinemia, supplementing a diet rich in folic acid with an additional vitamin may help.
Low-potassium levels have been linked by one study to age-related hearing loss, otherwise known as presbycusis. This study of Korean adults found that as potassium intake decreased with age, the chance of hearing loss increased. Since potassium levels decrease with age, if they’re not supplemented with diet change, it may increase the risk of presbycusis.
Behavior Changes to Reduce Harmful Noises
While vitamins and supplements don’t have a proven effect on reducing the likelihood of hearing loss, behavior changes definitely do. Most advice all comes down to one idea: Limit exposure to excessively loud sounds or avoid them entirely.
The most common type of hearing loss is caused by repeated or prolonged exposure to noises at damaging decibel levels. Therefore, these methods are the safest bet for protecting your hearing.
Specific things you can do include:
Keeping the Volume Down
Keep the volume to a reasonable level when listening to music, watching TV, or using the computer. If you can’t lower the volume to a reasonable level that others can hear as well, it might be worth asking yourself “do I have hearing loss?”
Move Away from Loud Sounds when Possible
If a loud noise feels uncomfortable, chances are it’s doing damage to your hearing. If possible, you should leave the area or at least distance yourself from any loud noises.
Use Earplugs or Hearing Protection
Sometimes it’s simply not possible to avoid exposure to loud noises. Earplugs or certain types of hearing protection will keep the volume to a reasonable level. This holds especially true for concerts where you want to be able to hear but don’t want to damage your hearing.
For more information on BHSM, visit the ASHA website.
Reduce exposure to loud noises and follow a few simple rules:
- If you’re going to a loud event, wear hearing protection
- If your ears hurt, get away from the sound