As we grow older, the risk of hearing loss increases. But eating foods that protect your heart may also keep your ears in great shape, according to a recent review of nearly two dozen studies on the topic.
Researchers in Spain pored over the data and discovered that people can reduce their risk of age-related hearing loss by eating a diet rich in:
- Foods containing polyunsaturated fatty acids like Omega-3 from certain fish
- Foods containing antioxidants like vitamins A, C and E
Diets rich in saturated fats and cholesterol are associated with harmful effects on hearing, the researchers found.
According to a Consumer Reports roundup of the findings, you can protect your heart and hearing by switching to a diet based on high-quality plant-based foods. Your menu should include low amounts of animal-based foods, refined grains, added sugars and unhealthy fats.
Why does a healthful diet protect your ears? Experts told Consumer Reports that eating well improves cholesterol and blood pressure, which helps keep blood flowing. Good blood flow is a key to keeping your ears functioning.
A sound diet also can protect your ears by preventing oxidative damage and lowering inflammation.
Dr. Sharon Curhan — a physician and epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston who has been part of two key studies on the link between diet and hearing — made some recommendations to Consumer Reports on how to eat right:
“To make it easy, Curhan recommends at each meal filling half your plate with fruits and veggies (but limiting starchy ones, like potatoes). The other half should be made up of whole grains and plant-based protein, such as tofu, lentils, or nuts most days, with fish and modest amounts (of) lean meat, and poultry less often. Unsaturated oils such as olive or vegetable oils can also be used.”
Eating well is not a cure-all for protecting your hearing, however. Instead, it’s just one component of treating your ears right. Other steps recommended in the Consumer Reports story to boost hearing include:
- Use earplugs to protect your ears from loud (concerts, sporting events) and even moderately loud (lawn mowers, motorcycles) sounds.
- Avoid smoking, which has been linked to hearing loss.
- Exercise more — lack of activity has been linked to hearing loss.
As we have reported, eating the right diet also can protect your vision. For more on that, check out “Avoiding These 5 Foods Could Save Your Vision as You Age.”