Posted on Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Is Your Diet Aging Your Ears?

According to Science Based Health, “Loss of hearing is the most common sensory disorder in the US, affecting more than 36 million people.” It turns out, maybe not surprisingly, that what we eat can have long-term consequences for our hearing. An Australian study reported on in the Journal of Nutrition, has shown that diets high in sugar and carbohydrates detrimentally impacts hearing. A similar study showed that diets high in cholesterol also contribute to hearing loss normally associated with aging.

It’s not just about what we take in that can be detrimental to our hearing health, it’s also about what we leave out.

There are two important nutrients that help maintain hearing—no matter what its current level, folic acid (also called folate) and B12. Science Daily reports, “Age-related hearing loss (ARHL), one of the four most prevalent chronic conditions in the elderly, is associated with low serum levels of folic acid, according to new research published in the December 2010 issue of Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery.”

Folic acid is a B vitamin complex that helps make healthy new red blood cells. Lack of folic acid can negatively affect homocysteine levels which can slow down blood flow. Good blood flow is essential in bringing nutrients to the small capillaries of the ears, thus folic acid’s crucial role in hearing health. Folic acid can be found in a good multivitamin and in the following foods:

Enriched breads, cereals, and other grains have folic acid added to them. For the exact amount of folic acid contained in these products, check out the labels.
Rich leafy greens—like Spinach and bell peppers, avocado, cabbage, fennel, collard greens, romaine lettuce, turnips, cauliflower, cucumber, and squash. The Whole Foods website provides a daily value for folate or folic acid foods.
Minimally processed fruits and fresh squeezed juices like orange, grapefruit, papaya, and tomato all contain folic acid.
Seeds, like sunflower, and many different types of beans like kidney beans, black eyed peas, black beans, navy beans, and chickpeas.

B12 and folic acid work in similar manners, keeping blood cells happy and lowering homocysteine levels.

B12 attaches naturally to proteins in food and is released through the digestion process of our stomachs. According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, when B12 is added to foods, and it is routinely, it does not require this releasing process. The key to getting enough B12 is to consume a variety of lean meats, dairy, fortified foods, and supplements, but also to make sure that you are absorbing these nutrients properly. Your general practitioner can test your B12 levels. Here is a list of where to find B12:

Clams are a great source of B12. Many great recipes for Clams Casino contain bell peppers and tomatoes, so it’s folate rich as well!
Liver is a good source of B12 (pregnant women should not eat liver). Liver can be steamed or fried with onions or spices, and if you want to mash it up until it’s unrecognizable as liver, try pâté!
Fish, like trout, salmon, and haddock are all rich in vitamin B12.
Meats, dairy, and eggs are all a good source of B12, but since high level of cholesterol can also negatively impact hearing, it's wise to go for lean versions of these foods or invest in a good a supplement.

There are a lot of choices to maintain healthy levels of folic acid and B12, and this list is far from complete, so if you have anything to add please send it to dstewart@ahhanet.com

If you'd like to learn more, see your hearing health provider. If you need help finding a hearing health provider click HERE to be connected with the largest network of trusted hearing health professionals in the nation!


American Academy of Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery. "Age-related hearing loss and folate in the elderly." ScienceDaily, 1 Dec. 2010. Web. 24 Oct. 2011.

Office of Dietary Supplements—Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet. National Institute of Health, June 24, 2011. Web. 24 Oct. 2011

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