Communication Matters

Foods That Help Promote Healthy Hearing

Laura L. Brady, AuD, CCC-A | Posted on May 15, 2019

family bakingMinerals are in the foods we eat and play a vital role in our overall health and proper body function. Many of us may be aware that calcium builds strong bones and teeth, and that zinc helps with boosting the immune system (think Cold-EEZE cold remedy). There are even some minerals that are critical elements for protecting your hearing health.

Minerals are inorganic, essential nutrients found in soils and rocks. We ingest these substances by consuming plants that absorb them from the earth and eating meat from animals that eat those same plants.

Although there are many essential minerals, four are particularly important for preserving good hearing. Eating a balanced diet found in natural foods usually provides the body with adequate minerals for our hearing health. It’s crucial that you consult your physician before adding any supplements to your diet.

#1 Potassium

Potassium is responsible for regulating the amount of fluid in your blood and body tissue. The liquid in the inner ear depends on an abundant supply of potassium. The fluid levels in our ears naturally drop as we get older, which could contribute to age-related hearing loss known as presbycusis.

Another hormone called aldosterone helps regulate potassium in the body. Research has linked a drop in aldosterone, common with aging, with hearing loss. While no direct link has been found to support taking potassium supplements, eating foods containing potassium is beneficial to your overall health.

Food sources: potatoes, spinach, lima beans, tomatoes, raisins, apricots, bananas, melons, oranges, yogurt, and milk.

#2 Folic Acid

Folic acid is a critical element that helps the body generate new cell growth. Studies have suggested that adults with low levels of folic acid are more likely to develop presbycusis. Some studies show folic acid supplements may slow down hearing loss. This may be because the body uses folic acid to metabolize the inflammatory compound homocysteine, which reduces circulation. Good circulation is an essential component in keeping the inner ear healthy.

Food sources: organ meats, spinach, broccoli, and asparagus.

#3 Magnesium

Food can even help protect you from noise-related hearing loss. Research conducted at the University of Michigan Kresge Hearing Research Institute concluded that people treated with magnesium (along with Vitamins A, C, and E) before loud sound exposure experienced less damage to the inner ear. According to the study, magnesium inhibits free radicals that the body produces when exposed to loud noise — almost like a shield for the microscopic hair cells in the inner ear. Also, a lack of adequate magnesium can cause blood vessels to shrink and become oxygen deprived. 

Food sources: bananas, artichokes, potatoes, spinach, tomatoes, broccoli, and potassium-rich foods.

#4 Zinc

Zinc boosts the body’s immune system. It is also responsible for cell growth and healing wounds, so it’s potentially helpful in warding off germs that cause the common cold. Some studies suggest it may also help alleviate tinnitus (ringing or noises in the head or ears) in individuals with normal hearing. Since it does interact with antibiotics and diuretics, you should always consult your physician before taking zinc supplements.

Food sources: beef, pork, dark-meat chicken, cashews, almonds, peanuts, beans, split peas, lentils, oysters, and dark chocolate.

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Tags: Audiology, Hearing, Hearing Loss Prevention, Hearing Loss, "tinnitus", "ears"

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