3 diets that halt age-related hearing loss

I recently met with a childhood friend for lunch, and she happened to mention her last trip to the eye doctor. Apparently, her eye doctor told her she would need glasses by the time she’s forty. Not because of anything he saw in her exam, just because “everybody does.”

It’s funny how common certain beliefs about aging are. Everybody will need glasses. Everybody will lose hearing. Everybody’s memory will start to slip.

But here’s the actual truth: Everybody ages differently.

I know plenty of people older than 40 who don’t need glasses (including my mom). My 90-year-old grandma has great hearing… and a pretty sharp memory too. I know these are anecdotal cases, but science supports the fact that aging isn’t a uniform process…

In fact, a multi-decade study conducted by the National Institutes of Health called the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA) shows that everyone ages differently and the difference is mostly caused by two factors: genes and lifestyle.

Now, there’s nothing you can do about your genes. But your lifestyle choices are totally up to you. Here’s a great example of the difference your lifestyle choices can make…

A new study shows that women who eat a healthy diet have better hearing as they age.

How healthy eating reduces the risk of hearing loss 25 to 30 percent

A recent study from researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital shows healthy eating can help you maintain healthy hearing as you get older.

The study included 20 years of data from the Nurses’ Health Study II Conservation of Hearing Study (CHEARS). Researchers scanned the data to find changes in hearing sensitivities over three-year periods. And here’s what they noticed…

Women who ate a healthy diet were less likely to lose hearing sensitivity. In fact, researchers found that healthy eating lowered the risk of hearing loss by 25 to 30 percent. That’s pretty amazing… especially considering a lot of people believe hearing loss is an unavoidable part of aging.

What types of diets did these women eat to hold onto their hearing?

Well, researchers noticed these women followed diets that closely resembled the DASH diet, the Mediterranean diet and the Alternate Healthy Index-2010 (AHEI-2010).

Not familiar with these diets? Don’t worry. I’ll get you up to speed…

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The down-low on the diets that help you hear better

If you want to keep your hearing well into old age, you may want to try one of the three diets that helped women in the study maintain healthy hearing. Here’s what you need to know about these three healthy eating plans to get started…

The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is a high-fiber diet that includes low to moderate fat intake. Here’s a whole DASH diet menu plan put together by the Mayo Clinic. But just to give you a quick overview, the DASH diet includes:

  • Whole grains
  • Fruits and veggies
  • Low-fat or nonfat dairy products
  • Lean meat, fish and poultry
  • Nuts and beans

The Mediterranean diet is probably the most well-known of the three diets mentioned in this study. But in case you’re unfamiliar with it, the Mediterranean diet includes:

  • Extra virgin olive oil (and other healthy fats)
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Legumes
  • Wholegrain breads, pastas, and cereals
  • Fish
  • Red wine (in moderation)
  • Minimal amounts of red meat, sweets, and processed foods

The Alternate Healthy Index-2010 isn’t so much of a diet as a healthy eating scoring system. It was developed by scientists as a way to gauge healthy eating in research studies. But you can use its guidelines to clean up your own diet too. Here’s what you should do if you want to maintain healthy eating using the Alternate Healthy Index-2010:

  • Eat at least five servings of vegetables per day (more if you can).
  • Eat at least four servings of fresh or frozen fruit (not canned… it contains too much added sugar).
  • Eat two to three servings of whole grains per day (about 75 grams if you’re a woman and 90 grams if you’re a man).
  • Eat at least one serving of nuts and legumes per day.
  • Eat at least 250 milligrams of the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA per day. Think fatty fish, fish oil or krill oil for a cleaner, more bioavailable option.
  • Cut out sugar-sweetened beverages and fruit juice.
  • Cut out red meat.
  • Keep sodium and alcohol intake to a minimum.

There you have it! Three different healthy eating options that could potentially help you keep your hearing. Pick one that appeals to you most and stick to it. You don’t have to follow the rules or guidelines perfectly. But the more closely you do, the less likely you’ll be shopping for a hearing aid in the near (or distant) future.

The authors note that further research in additional populations is warranted — including men. The Nurses’ Health Study just provides a large population of data and is popularly used in many studies. But just because these results were seen in women, men shouldn’t feel they couldn’t possibly benefit from following the dietary changes that helped a percentage of women in the study hold on to their hearing longer. It’s certainly worth a try considering all of the other benefits these healthy diets offer!

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Sources:

  1. Hear this: Healthful diet tied to lower risk of hearing loss — Brigham and Women’s Hospital
  2. Prospective Study of Dietary Patterns and Hearing Threshold DeclineAmerican Journal of Epidemiology
  3. The Best Diet You’ve Never Heard Of — Next Avenue

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Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.