They say, “you are what you eat.” A new study from researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital finds evidence that you hear what you eat, as well…that is, the foods you eat may directly impact your hearing. This could have a profound impact on the diets of the hearing impaired in Salem.
Benefits of a Healthy Diet
The benefits of eating a healthy, well-balanced diet are plentiful: it will help you maintain your weight, reduce your risk of developing heart disease and cancer and can help prevent memory loss and cognitive decline later in life. New research shows that a healthy diet may also prevent hearing loss.
The study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, examined 20 years’ worth of data for over 3,100 women whose average age was 59 years old.
How long did the study last?
Testing sites were set up at locations across the U.S. for audiologists to measure changes in participants’ hearing thresholds over a three-year period following the start of the study.
Did the study find a link between diet and hearing loss?
The results indicated that women who followed several popular diets experienced a 30 percent reduction in mid-frequency hearing loss. The specific diets that were most beneficial were:
- The Mediterranean Diet
- The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet
- The Alternate Healthy Index-2010 (AHEI-2010) diet
What kind of diet reduces hearing damage?
These diets all focus on consuming plant-based foods and healthy fats and avoiding processed foods and refined sugars. The study corroborates previous findings that have shown these diets lowered the risks of hypertension, diabetes and death.
Lead author Sharon Curhan, MD, said, “A common perception is that hearing loss is an inevitable part of the aging process. However, our research focuses on identifying potentially modifiable risk factors — that is, things that we can change in our diet and lifestyle to prevent hearing loss or delay its progression.”
The diets impacted high-frequency hearing loss as well
Healthy eating didn’t just lower the odds of mid-frequency hearing loss; it also resulted in a 25 percent reduction in high-frequency hearing loss, as well. No one diet was better than the others; instead, all three provided a benefit.
Why do these diets improve hearing health?
Researchers believe the diets improve blood circulation, while unhealthy diets incorporate high-fat foods that can clog blood vessels, resulting in poor blood flow to the inner ear that can lead to hearing loss.
Another study in 2018 found similar evidence that women who followed these diets experienced a 30 percent lower risk of moderate to severe hearing loss compared to their peers who did not follow these diets. Despite the promising results, researchers say additional studies are needed to confirm the benefits of healthy eating across a more diverse population, acknowledging the limited sample size focused only on non-Hispanic white women.
Still, this bodes well for Oregonians who have a love affair with kale. For more information on tips to lower your risk of hearing loss, contact an audiologist in Salem.