Studies Show the Link Between a Good Diet and Hearing Health

There are a number of well-known ways to protect one’s hearing, including wearing ear protection and not turning up the volume. But one overlooked precaution — as is the case with so much in life — is to ensure that you’re eating a proper diet.

There are now a number of formal studies that have determined that diet — and certain foods and specific nutrients — are important to your auditory system.

  • A study published in the International Journal of Audiology in 2013 concluded that poor diets are a risk factor in hearing loss. It analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which had 21,000 participants between 1999 and 2002. It found that people with a higher “score” for a healthy diet — meaning diets that were closer to those recommended by the Department of Agriculture (USDA) — also had better hearing health outcomes.
  • In 2010 the study “A Prospective Study of Vitamin Intake and the Risk of Hearing Loss In Men” was published in the Journal of Otolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery. It concluded that there was clear evidence that men with better diets — especially those rich in the intake of folic acid — had significantly better hearing. Foods like leafy green vegetables, fruits, beans, rice, pasta, and bread and cereals are good sources for folic acid.
  • Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital published a study in 2018 in the Journal of Nutrition after analyzing the questionnaires of 71,000 women who had participated in the Nurses’ Health Study II between 1991 and 2013. They found that those with eating habits that fell into the healthiest categories — the Mediterranean Diet (AMED) and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) — had a 30 percent lower risk for hearing loss.
    The AMED diet is based on fish, olive oil, nuts, whole grains, legumes, and fresh fruits and vegetables, while the DASH diet encourages the same, though it includes lean meat, low-fat dairy, and restricts the intake of sodium, sugar, and fat.

Allergies and Your Hearing

So, it may not seem a natural connection, but your allergies and your hearing aren’t totally unrelated.

The fact is, though we usually take it for granted, our hearing requires an incredibly complicated system to function at a very high level — day in and day out. And yes, allergies can throw sand in the gears.

Allergies usually mean that some part of your body swells. Even if you’re not overly allergic to bees, you’ll have swelling around the sting as the body reacts (and if you have a severe allergic reaction minor swelling is the least of your problems).

With many allergic reactions, there will also be congestion in your chest and nasal cavity. This kind of “clogging up the works” can directly influence your hearing, since this can change the fluid pressure in your inner ear. Your eardrum is calibrated to “normal” pressure and allergy-induced changes will affect the entire system.

Likewise, there are tubes in your middle ear that allow drainage to occur (part of keeping everything calibrated). If those get clogged with fluids produced by an allergic reaction, then things get backed up in the ear canal.

Some allergies will also induce your body to produce more earwax. This just clogs up your ear canal directly. Nothing subtle about that.

Allergic skin reactions can wreak havoc as well, since both your inner and outer ear are, well, covered in skin. If there’s severe swelling in the ear canal the passage is narrowed, which will block sound waves and once again throw off the calibration of the system.

Some things to be aware of if you’re having allergy issues include the urge to scratch inside your ear, bouts of dizziness, and any ringing in your ear. These are all signs that something is amiss.

If there’s a sudden hearing loss, you’ll probably want to have things checked out by a professional.

Sobering Research On Hearing Loss and Dementia

Although the specific reasons are not yet clear, what is observable is that there is a link of some kind between untreated hearing loss and the onset of dementia.

Several long-term studies — including two prominent ones affiliated with Johns Hopkins Medicine — have been carried out over the last decade. They have tracked the cognitive abilities of older people with varying levels of hearing capabilities. There appears to be a clear correlation between hearing loss issues coinciding with an erosion of cognitive health.

Some theories include: limited audiological input robs the brain of needed activity — as if the exercise routine of the brain had been severely reduced — and results in brain tissue loss; that the effort the brain must endure in deciphering garbled sounds over a number of years overwhelms brain function; or that there is some yet undiscovered common pathology that leads to both hearing loss and dementia.

Yet another theory is that hearing loss leads to social isolation, since communicating with other people becomes harder and harder. It has already been established that loneliness is a risk factor for developing cognitive disorders.

This last theory makes it clear that early discovery and intervention regarding hearing loss is vital. Treatments — such as hearing aids — may very well lessen whatever link there is between hearing loss and dementia. It’s very possible that by continuing more “normal” sound input to the brain, hearing aids prevent the deterioration of brain function.

These findings and theories point in one clear direction: that hearing should be routinely tested — starting in middle age as part of annual physical checkups — and issues treated as quickly as possible. It’s clear that hearing loss does the brain no good.

Hearing protection at a music festival

Have Some Summer Fun, But Think Ahead

Summer is full of fun. And one of the great things that happen in the summer is music festivals.

But … festivals can be loud. Some precautions should be taken to ensure the fun doesn’t leave a mark on your hearing.

And this isn’t an “oldies” show phenomena. A quarter of U.S. adults between the ages of 18 to 44 report hearing loss issues. Not to mention the widespread hearing issues reported by musicians over the years.

One obvious precaution is to wear earplugs, especially if you plan on getting close to the stage (and thus closer to the speaker stacks). Many festivals have vendors who sell earplugs on the side, though expect to pay the markup for what are probably lesser-quality products.

For the best earplugs, visit a hearing professional before going to the concert site. If you’re a concert devotee and put yourself in loud music environments on a regular basis, consider getting some high-end ear molds, which a care provider can customize for you. They are discreet, rugged, and offer the best protection.

It also helps to give your ears a sabbatical. For the amount of time you’re exposed to high-decibel music, take the same amount of time to let your ears recover. Wander around the perimeter, see some acoustic acts, and peruse some merchandise. Give your ears a breather.

Remember, hearing loss due to chronic exposure to high-decibel sound is not treatable. There are no miracle cures for hearing loss — no equivalent of joint replacements later in life. Once you lose your hearing, there’s no way to get it back without external devices like hearing aids.

cash in wallet

A Hearing Aid Is an Investment, Treat It That Way

For as sophisticated as they are, hearing aids are also extremely rugged. And they require very little regular maintenance other than new batteries or overnight charges. But getting into the habit of cleaning and maintaining your hearing aid will keep them operating at peak levels and extend their life.

The inside of a human ear canal is not exactly a “clean room.” No matter how neat you are, it’s a mess in there. Of course, there’s earwax to contend with — but moisture is the bigger issue. Your hearing aid is an electronic device and they are not known for liking moisture.

Getting into an end-of-the-day routine — much like brushing teeth or dealing with dentures — is a good goal. It’s especially crucial to give hearing aids the opportunity to thoroughly dry out overnight after a long day doing their duty in your ear.

This will be easier with the right tools. There are kits with brushes and wax picks that will allow you to do a reasonable cleaning of your hearing aid. The accumulation of earwax can have a significantly negative effect on the amplifier.

There are also wire-loop cleaners, magnets for getting hard-to-grab batteries, and air blowers for clearing out debris. Dehumidifiers are also a good option, allowing your hearing aid to spend the night in an environment that will draw out any moisture that’s accumulated during the day.

Whatever you do avoid wipes or rubbing alcohol on cue-tips. Remember, moisture is bad and astringents are even worse.

And it’s good to have the occasional “deep cleaning” performed by your hearing healthcare provider.

Signia Nx Hearing Device

Signia Releases Groundbreaking Nx Line with OVP™

Signia has recently released the Nx line of hearing aids. They feature state-of-the-art computer processing power and full connectivity, putting them on the leading edge of hearing aid technology.

One of the most profound new features is the OVP™ (Own Voice Processing) system. The Nx line has an entirely separate processing unit to handle the longstanding issue of users finding the sound of their own voice — channeled through their hearing aid — to be disorientating. Testing has shown the OVP™ system provides up to 80 percent improvement in users who have had own-voice issues.

Signia’s Ultra HDe2e binaural link is the core of the new system. It provides full-bandwidth audio analysis by scanning the wearer’s own voice through a completely separate input system than the rest of the incoming sound from the surrounding auditory environment. It is mixed in with the rest of the sound output, but its coming from an independent input allows fine-tuning of the user’s own voice at a level not before possible. It is a cutting-edge technology that means a significant increase in performance for many hearing aid users.

That’s not all the Nx line offers. Superior energy efficiency and excellent remote control capabilities with the myControl app are also significant features.

And the myHearing App provides superior product support and the ability to connect directly with hearing aid providers in real time. The latest version even supports video calls. This allows remote face-to-face interactions between the user and a hearing health professional during which adjustments can be made to the user’s hearing aid. The future is now.

What is Tinnitus?

It is estimated that one in ten U.S. adults have experienced “tinnitus” during the past 12 months. These people experience ringing in one or both of their ears when there is no external sound present. Tinnitus is not a disease. It is a symptom of a problem in the auditory system. It most often occurs […]

African American Baby Boomer Musician

Icons of the Baby Boom Generation Deal with Hearing Loss

Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers (H.E.A.R.) is a nonprofit “… dedicated to raising awareness of the dangers of noise exposure that can lead to permanent hearing loss and tinnitus.” It’s a formal organization dealing with one of the facts of the aging baby boomer generation, namely that years of loud amplified music takes a […]

That’s a Computer Behind Your Ear

Smart hearing aids are part of the much larger and ever-evolving world of smart products. These include everything from Tesla cars to Medtronic’s Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) device to the Petcube Camera.

These products are distinct not only because of their ability to connect with other devices and exchange data, but also to upload internal monitoring data they collect to the “product cloud” for further analysis.

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Time to Think About Hearing Aids?

When do you need a hearing aid? Well, obviously, when you can’t hear.

But things are never quite that simple. There are some situations — the buildup of earwax, a perforated eardrum, an infection of the inner ear, or other medical conditions — that can result in hearing loss. These may or may not be situations that require a hearing aid.

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