Your ears allow you to hear some pretty marvelous stuff, like the sound of your kids laughing, your favorite song playing on the radio, and the voices of the people you love.
Over time, we can experience a loss of hearing. Hearing loss can happen as we age, when the tiny hair cells in our inner ear become damaged or die. Different factors can contribute to a loss of hearing, such as genetics, or damage from loud noise. Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, and even certain medications can contribute to hearing loss as well.
Along with protecting your ears with common sense strategies (like not exposing yourself to repetitive loud noises and keeping the volume low while listening to music on headphones), what you put on your plate matters. Filling up on foods rich in the following nutrients may have a protective effect on your hearing:
Vitamin B12 and Folate
Folate and Vitamin B12 play many important roles in the body, including nerve cell function. Both of these nutrients help to reduce homocysteine levels - an amino acid found in the body that occurs during the metabolism of methionine and cysteine. Elevated homocystein levels have been linked to an increased risk of hearing problems. In a study of healthy volunteers aged 20- 30, vitamin B12 injections protected against noise-induced hearing loss. Researchers have also found low levels of folate linked to an increased risk of hearing loss.
Get plenty of these B-complex vitamins by filling up with dark leafy greens, eggs, and dairy. Folate can be found in beans, lentils, spinach, asparagus, avocado, broccoli, mango, and oranges. Vitamin B12 is found in animal sources, such as shellfish, beef, liver, mackerel, crab, dairy, cheese, and eggs.
Magnesium is a mineral that is needed for nerve function, and that can help expand blood vessels and improve circulation. Magnesium also helps to control the release of glutamate: another amino acid that may contribute to noise-induced hearing loss. In one study, magnesium supplementation on men aged 16-37 reduced noise-induced hearing loss.
Magnesium is plentiful in dark leafy greens, such as raw spinach, chard, and kale, in pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, brazil nuts, almonds, fish like mackerel and tuna, and avocados.
Zinc is a mineral with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Zinc oversees the maintenance of enzyme systems and cells, and plays a role in the synthesis of DNA. Researchers have found that zinc supplementation may be helpful in treating some forms of hearing loss and that low levels of zinc may be associated with impaired hearing and perceived loudness of tinnitus in afflicted individuals.
Zinc can be found in foods such as oysters, crab, and lobster, beef and lamb, spinach, pumpkin seeds, nuts, and cacao.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial fats. These long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids have been shown to reduce inflammation and provide support for numerous systems in the body. EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are found in fish oils, and must be obtained through diet. Studies have found that participants with the highest levels of omega-3 (or those that consumed fish or fish oil) suffered the least amount of hearing loss over time.
Omega-3s are found in few non-fish sources, such as flaxseeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts. For the fish highest in omega-3s, look for salmon, sardines, cod liver, mackerel, and herring.
If you want to protect your hearing, try filling your plate with foods rich in magesium, zinc, B vitamins (especially B12 and folate) and omega-3 essential fatty acids.
Melissa Zimmerman, Healthy Goods