Hearing loss is commonly considered to be an unavoidable part of the aging process. While true, the inevitability of this adage has recently been challenged. A recently published study by investigators from Brigham and Women’s Hospital has shown that there is a simple yet effective way to reduce the risk of acquired hearing loss. The study followed more than 70,000 women over a period of 20 years, and revealed that a healthy diet is a great way to reduce one’s risk of hearing loss.
Specifically, the researchers studied the effects of a few dietary patterns, including the Alternate Mediterranean diet (AMED) and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), among others. AMED is based on fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, legumes, and olive oil, while DASH encourages fruits, vegetables, nuts, lean meats, fish, and low-fat dairy, and limits sodium, sugar, and fat. The study found that women whose dietary pattern matched these healthy eating habits had a 30% lower risk of developing hearing loss. This study correlates with other studies that have shown a link between specific nutrients (found in carrots, squash, leafy greens, and others) and a reduced risk of hearing loss.
One of the most intriguing aspects of this study is the average age of the participating women. Most of the participants were in their mid-50s and early 60s, a younger age than is typically associated with hearing loss. Yet, the study clearly shows that almost half the women were beginning to develop some form of hearing loss at this age, and that those who stuck to one of these healthy diet plans had a 30 percent lower risk of developing hearing loss, specifically in the frequencies that are critical for speech understanding.
Although proper nutrition and dieting had not been previously linked to hearing health, this groundbreaking study directs us to refocus on the importance of proper nutrition. These dietary patterns are already well-known to lower the risk of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and stroke. It is now established that attentiveness to our eating habits while young is not only a great way to stay fit and ensure healthy aging but is also an easy way to prevent hearing loss.
Did you know … ? If you are age 55 or older, it is recommended that you have an annual hearing exam as part of an overall wellness program.
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