In the fight to keep your body healthy and functioning properly, minerals play an important role. Calcium builds strong bones the milk commercials tell us and zinc is an important mineral for boosting the immune system. Some minerals, like the ones listed below, are also critical elements in protecting our hearing health.
Potassium is responsible for regulating the amount of fluid in your blood and body tissue. That’s important to your hearing health because fluid in the inner ear is dependent upon a rich supply of potassium, especially in that part of the ear that translates the noises we hear into electrical impulses the brain interprets as sound. As we age, those levels naturally drop and contribute to presbycusis – or age-related hearing loss.
Potassium-rich foods include: potatoes, spinach, lima beans, tomatoes, raisins, apricots, bananas, melons, oranges, yogurt and low-fat milk.
Folic acid is a critical element in your body’s ability to generate new cell growth. Studies have shown that adults over the age of 50 with low levels of folic acid in their blood are 34% more likely to develop presbycusis. Some studies show folic acid supplements may reduce hearing loss in men by 25%. That might be because the body uses folic acid to metabolize homocysteine, an inflammatory compound that reduces circulation. Good circulation is an important component in keeping the hair cells of the inner ear healthy and working properly.
Folate rich foods include fortified breakfast cereal, liver, spinach, broccoli and asparagus.
Research conducted at the University of Michigan Kresge Hearing Research Institute has shown that people pretreated with magnesium (along with Vitamins A, C, and E) were protected from noise-related hearing loss. Scientists believe this is because magnesium combats the effects of free radicals emitted during loud noises – almost like a protective barrier for the delicate hair cells in the inner ear. Also, lack of adequate magnesium in the inner ear causes the blood vessels to shrink, depriving it of valuable oxygen.
Foods rich in magnesium include fruits and vegetables, such as bananas, artichokes, potatoes, spinach and broccoli.
Zinc boosts body’s immune system and is also responsible for cell growth and healing wounds, so it’s potentially helpful in warding off germs that cause the common cold and, ultimately, those pesky ear infections. Some studies suggest it’s also effective in treating tinnitus in individuals with normal hearing. Zinc does interact antiobiotics and diuretics, though, so be sure to seek a physician’s advice before adding this mineral to your diet.
Foods rich in zinc include beef, port and dark-meat chicken, cashews, almonds, peanuts, beans, split peas, lentils, oysters – and dark chocolate!
On a balanced diet, our bodies usually produce enough of these minerals to keep us healthy and functioning effectively. As always, check with your physician before adding any supplements to your diet.