Hearing is a major way we process information and navigate daily life. It is essential for effective communication, healthy relationships, social life, and job performance. When hearing is impaired, the effects on overall health can be significant and challenging to navigate. Hearing loss is the third most common medical condition that older adults experience, making it a public health epidemic. Affecting over 40 million people in the U.S., hearing impairment can strain communication, lead to social withdrawal, and impact mental and physical health. It can also contribute to the development of cognitive decline, accidental injuries, and underemployment.
It is incredibly important to be as proactive about your hearing health as possible. One way to nurture your hearing health is by increasing your intake of specific nutrients. Minerals are nutrients that the body needs to perform the functions that keep us alive and well. This includes keeping your bones, heart, brain, and muscles healthy in addition to enzyme and hormone production. We are all familiar with the benefits of healthy eating but less known is how it can boost your hearing health! 5 nutrients that can improve the quality of your hearing include:
This mineral is needed to balance fluid levels throughout the body including the inner ear. The fluid in the inner ear, along with thousands of hair cells, helps translate soundwaves into electrical signals that are then sent to the brain to process which is how we are able to understand what we hear. Potassium regulates this fluid, allowing this function to be carried out effectively.
Potassium rich foods include: whole grains, mushrooms, fruits (bananas, oranges), peas, sweet potatoes, cucumbers.
Magnesium is great for overall immune system health, muscles, and bones. Additionally, magnesium helps provide a protective barrier for the hair cells in the inner ear. There are thousands of hair cells in each ear and unlike other types of cells, these cells do not regenerate. This means that any damage is permanent, causing hearing loss. Hair cells are sensitive and can be impacted by a variety of factors so having a rich supply of magnesium is helpful in keeping them healthy!
Magnesium rich foods include: nuts and seeds, leafy greens (spinach, kale), legumes, artichokes, potatoes, broccoli.
3. Folic Acid
Folate helps with the circulation of blood and oxygen throughout the body. The auditory system consists of the outer, middle, and inner ear in addition to nerve pathways and the auditory cortex in the brain. These integral components work to absorb and process sound which relies on healthy blood and oxygen supply and circulation. This helps the blood vessels, cells, fluids etc. work properly.
Foods rich in folic acid include: brussels sprouts, cabbage, spring greens, chickpeas, broccoli.
Helps maintain a healthy immune system, cell growth, and aids in the body’s natural healing capacities. This is particularly helpful for hearing health because it can fight off bacteria, preventing ear infections and irritations within the ear which can impact hearing by obstructing the absorbing and processing of sound.
Zinc rich foods include: lentils, shellfish, beans, tofu, chickpeas, nuts, beans.
5. Omega 3 Fats
Omega 3 fatty acids reduce inflammation, improve brain function, and overall circulation. Studies have shown that this nutrient positively impacts hearing health. Researchers have suggested that it can help protect cell life which directly benefits the hair cells in the inner ear. This is particularly important because hair cells do not reproduce and cannot be repaired. Omega 3 fats can help protect these cells and contribute to their longevity.
Foods rich in omega 3 fats include: fish, nuts and seeds (flaxseed, walnuts, chia seeds), and flaxseed oil.
Increasing your intake of plant-based foods and reducing consumption of processed foods can significantly improve all aspects of your health. Plant-based refers to fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and whole grains that are not heavily processed while allowing them to remain packed with nutrients that your body needs. In addition to keeping your body and brain energized, healthier eating can reduce your risk of various medical conditions including hearing loss. Eating nutrient rich foods can boost your hearing health and help you feel the best you can in your daily life!