Foods that boost hearing health: The power of vitamins
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost half of all Americans take vitamins or a supplement every day, with more older American women taking calcium supplements than ever before. Consumer Reports estimates the supplement industry at more than $27 billion.
While vitamins are important to overall health, some vitamins – like the ones listed in this article – are especially beneficial for maintaining your hearing health.
Because vitamin C is considered to be an antioxidant, it’s believed to be helpful in preventing damage to hair cells in the cochlea. A strong immune system is also effective in fighting off infections, including those in the middle ear.
It may be effective in helping prevent noise-induced hearing loss, as well. Scientists at the University of Michigan Kresge Hearing Research Institute conducted a study in 2008 using a cocktail of vitamins A, C and E plus magnesium. The cocktail was given to animals in laboratory testing before they were exposed to noisy environments and found that 80 percent of noise-induced hearing loss was prevented. Researchers are now conducting tests to see if humans will benefit from the cocktail, too.
In addition to its antioxidant properties, vitamin E improves circulation, including to the hair cells in your inner ear which depend upon good circulation for optimum health.
Vitamin D is responsible for good bone health, which means the tiny bones in your middle ear benefit from it, too. A vitamin D deficiency can cause osteopenia (bone loss) and otosclerosis (abnormal bone growth) in the bones of the middle ear which can lead to hearing loss and deafness.
Studies have shown that individuals with vitamin B-12 deficiencies are at risk for noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Research published in the March 1999 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that a vitamin B-12 deficiency – especially when combined with low folate levels – may also be responsible for presbycusis (age-related hearing loss).
According to a recent cultural shift toward eating whole foods, many doctors urge people, especially seniors, to take fewer vitamins and supplements and work on getting their vitamins from whole foods. After all, they’re called supplements for a reason, a U.S. News article said — they should be supplemental to one’s diet.
The best foods to get vitamin C from include dark leafy greens like kale and chard, kiwi, broccoli, berries, citrus fruits, tomatoes, peas and papayas. The current daily recommend value for vitamin C is 60 mg. One medium orange contains 69.7 mg.
Foods high in vitamin E can be found in the nut section of the grocery store — almonds and hazelnuts are both rich in the vitamin. After the nut aisle, turn to the produce aisle for Swiss chard, spinach, turnip greens and kale. Nut seeds and plant oils, such as sunflower and grapeseed, are also high in vitamin E.
Our favorite way to get vitamin D is to head outside on a sunny day to soak up the sun’s rays. Consider taking a picnic with foods high in Vitamin D on a bright sunny day so you can get two hits of vitamin D at one time. We recommend fish (tuna fish sandwiches), egg yolks (egg salad sandwiches) or cheese (cheese and crackers). The RDA for vitamin D is 600 IU.
The same foods that provide vitamin D also provide high sources of vitamin B12, such as mackerel, salmon and sardines. Additionally, red meat, milk, yogurt and Swiss cheese provide high amounts of the vitamin. The RDA for vitamin B12 vary for sexes and ages.
While studies show vitamin deficiencies contribute to a variety of health problems, and lots of things besides diet affect hearing, eating a balanced diet is still the best way to get the nutrients your body needs to function effectively. Please consult with your family doctor before adding any vitamins or supplements to your diet. If you have any concerns about your hearing, contact a hearing care professional in your area.