Your hearing mechanism, located deep inside the skull, is very delicate and complicated, and if any part of that mechanism – from ear drum to cochlea – is damaged, the result is hearing loss. That’s why hearing professionals recommend wearing ear protection when exposed to loud noise and to unplug the MP3 player once in awhile to allow for some quiet time.
Hearing loss is a fairly standard part of the aging process. The hearing mechanism wears out as we age. But here’s the thing: if we live a healthier lifestyle today, we’ll hear better tomorrow and could potentially slow the effects from aging down. Specifically, if we eat a better diet and live a heart healthy lifestyle, we’ll hear better longer. And it’s not that hard to do.
When the ears are exposed to loud noise – especially loud noise over a long time – the inner ear begins to produce little molecules called free radicals. These corrosive, little molecules have been tied to everything from the aging process itself to hearing loss.
Now, free radicals are always floating around the body so don’t expect to go radical clear. These molecules occur naturally, usually when the body is damaged or stressed. A cut or a nicked finger, for example, produces free radicals. So does loud music. That’s one reason your ears ring when you leave a rock concert. Too much noise. Too much volume. Too many free radicals.
These free radicals damage the delicate hearing mechanism, and you lose your ability to hear over time. In most cases, hearing loss is so gradual that you don’t even notice it, but there’s less and less hearing going on every day.
Anti-Oxidants, Folates and Free Radicals
|Eat your folates for healthy hearing|
Free radicals are bad for your health. So, how do you fight these naturally-occurring molecules that damage the body at the cellular level? One thing doctors recommend is to eat foods high in anti-oxidants – especially foods rich in folates.
Folate is a nutrient found in some of the foods we eat. Specifically, folate is a water-soluble member of the B vitamin family. If you take a vitamin supplement, you might see the ingredient, folic acid, on the ingredients label. Folic acid is the synthetic version of folate and, as far as the body is concerned, it doesn’t know the difference between folic acid and organic or natural folate. Both put up a daily fight against the free radicals produced by stress on the body.
In other words, free radicals damage the body bit by bit over a lifetime. Anti-oxidants, like folate, fight free radicals. So, the better your diet, the more folate you consume. In turn, more folate is available to fight those free radicals that are responsible for the aging process and, yes, hearing loss.
A recent study presented at the 2009 American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation (AAO-HNSF) Annual Meeting found that men over the age of 60 who have a high intake of foods and supplements high in folates have a 20 percent decrease in risk of developing hearing loss. 20 percent! That is a significant finding and the authors report this is the largest study to examine the beneficial relationship between folates and hearing loss.
Good Foods and Nutritional Supplements For the Ears
If you take a nutritional supplement – a vitamin pill – each day, check the label. Look for the ingredient folic acid. If the supplement provides 100% of the minimum daily requirement (MDR) of folic acid, you’re covered. But that doesn’t mean that you should count on your vitamin each day to keep you healthy. A healthy diet also provides folates to fight off free radicals damaging your hearing.
So what foods are high in folates? There are lots and at least some of them are foods you like to eat:
|Food||MDR of folates|
|Cooked spinach 1/2 cup||25%|
|Cooked asparagus 4 spears||20%|
|Vegetarian baked beans||15%|
|Enriched egg noodles||15%|
|Avocado 1/2 cup sliced||10%|
|Dry roasted peanuts 1 oz||10%|
|Orange juice 3/4 cup||10%|
|Banana 1 medium||6%|
Other foods that are rich in folates: broccoli, beans and peas, beef liver, eggs – you know, the good stuff, the stuff you know you should eat for overall good health.
A healthy diet not only improves overall good health at the cellular level, it improves quality of life at the daily level. Foods high in folates, or vitamin supplements that provide 100% of your MDR of folic acid, will go a long way to ensure that you go a long way.
Think of it as a quality of life issue that you never think about. You hear fine. You hear the slightest sound – the faint cry of your baby three rooms away. Good for you. Want to keep it that way?
We all do. Our bodies produce free radicals that damage cells – the body’s building blocks. Anti-oxidants – especially folates – are the first line of defense in fending off the damage caused by free radicals. You can take a vitamin supplement that provides 100% of your MDR of folic acid, but eat some of the foods on the list above. There must be something on that list that you like, and hopefully, you like them all.
No, it’s not just about heart health, though there’s no doubt a healthy heart is critical to good health (and actually for healthy hearing). But so is the ability to hear. Your ability to hear enables you to interact with others. Your ears provide spatial orientation – your place in the space you occupy, whether it’s a crowded elevator or the quiet of the woods in winter. Your ears, your ability to hear, enable you to orient yourself in whatever space you occupy at the moment. Spatial orientation also keeps you safe from danger – like a speeding car.
And then, there are the little things – the ability to enjoy music and dancing, the ability to enjoy the sounds of summer twittering in the trees, the ability to hear directions on the job – all of these contribute to a richer, fuller, more meaningful life.
So eat better for all the right reasons. Sure, it’s about a healthy heart, strong bones and muscles, but it’s also about your ability to hear better longer.
It’s true: you are what you eat. That’s a fact.
It’s also a fact that you hear what you eat. So, the better you eat, the better your diet, the better chance (20% better chance) you’ll be able to hear in the years ahead.
Just one more reason to make a few lifestyle changes and enjoy life to the fullest. Like mom always said, “Eat your folates!”
Good advice. Take it.