Hearing Loss and Tinnitus Linked to Diet
Worried about hearing loss or tinnitus? Most of us figure that our ears are a long way from our digestive tract. So there’s no use considering our diet when it comes to our hearing. Wrong.
When you ask a senior why their hearing is so bad they will inevitably say that it was because they were exposed to louder noises when they were younger. Yet we also find that many seniors with similar exposures don’t have hearing loss. What makes the difference?
A 2018 study from Harvard and the Brigham and Women‘s Hospital studied hearing loss among 81,818 women. In particular, they followed the women with respect to their eventual hearing loss as it related to their diets.
The researchers used three types of healthy diets to gauge the diet quality of the women. The three diets were:
- Alternate Mediterranean diet (AMED)
- Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH)
- Alternative Healthy Eating Index (AHEI)
The researchers compared diets that corresponded with one of the three diets with the rates of hearing loss. Then they compared the hearing loss among those whose diets that were considered poor – in that they didn’t fit any of these dietary patterns. They also eliminated other potential causes of hearing loss.
The researchers found that the Alternate Mediterranean diet folks had nearly a third less hearing loss than those on poor diets. The DASH diet was about the same and the AHEI diet resulted in 21 percent lower incidence of hearing loss.
Among those who underwent some additional hearing instruction, the rates were even lower – 37 percent lower for AMED for example.
All three of the diets above have a greater relative degree of fruits and vegetables and whole grains. The researchers concluded:
“Adherence to healthful dietary patterns is associated with lower risk of hearing loss in women. Consuming a healthy diet may be helpful in reducing the risk of acquired hearing loss.”
This is not the only study to find that our diet is linked to hearing loss.
A 2013 study from the University of Florida also found that diets related to hearing loss risk. The researchers found that diets with greater levels of nutrients produced significantly lower levels of hearing loss, specifically at higher frequencies. The researchers stated:
“The current findings support an association between healthier eating and better high frequency thresholds in adults.”
Tinnitus has also been linked to poor diets according to the research.
A 2017 study from the University of Texas and the University of Mississippi Medical Center followed 2,176 people between 20 and 69 years old. Of that group, 21 percent had tinnitus in the past year and 12 percent had chronic tinnitus.
The researchers then looked at their diet using the healthy eating index. They eliminated other potential causes, including smoking, loud noise exposure, diabetes, race and others.
The research found that those with a healthier diet had 33 percent less incidence of tinnitus compared to those who had a poor diet.
Again, the healthy eating diet is based upon a greater number of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains in the diet.
The researchers wrote:
“The current findings support a possible relationship between healthier diet quality and reported persistent tinnitus.”
How does diet affect our hearing?
One may wonder what it is about our diet that can affect our hearing? Well, as the 2013 study above found, it is related to our nutrient intake. Healthier diets with more fruits and vegetables and whole grains give our bodies an array of nutrients that we may not otherwise have access to.
These nutrients help produce better nerve cells and better tissues. Within the bones of the ear we find extremely sensitive regions with tiny sensitive hairs bathed in a fluid that is compounded by the body based upon our nutrient intake. Fewer nutrients and more bad fats can lead to poor operational quality. Just as putting bad oil in a car can lead to engine problems.
Curhan SG, Wang M, Eavey RD, Stampfer MJ, Curhan GC. Adherence to Healthful Dietary Patterns Is Associated with Lower Risk of Hearing Loss in Women. J Nutr. 2018 Jun 1;148(6):944-951. doi: 10.1093/jn/nxy058.
Spankovich C, Bishop C, Johnson MF, Elkins A, Su D, Lobarinas E, Le Prell CG. Relationship between dietary quality, tinnitus and hearing level: data from the
national health and nutrition examination survey, 1999-2002. Int J Audiol. 2017 Oct;56(10):716-722. doi: 10.1080/14992027.2017.1331049.
Spankovich C, Le Prell CG. Healthy diets, healthy hearing: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999-2002. Int J Audiol. 2013 Jun;52(6):369-76. doi: 10.3109/14992027.2013.780133.