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We all must eat to survive, but our choices have more impact on our body than we may initially understand. It seems like everywhere we go, there are advertisements trying to convince us to eat foods loaded with saturated fats and sugars. While these foods may initially feel good, the long-term impact may include addiction. In fact, a recent study found that Foods rich in fat and sugar can increase dopamine, the brain’s pleasure hormone, to as much as 200 percent above normal levels. These levels are like the effect in addictive substances such as nicotine and alcohol! Everything can be enjoyed in moderation, however, regular American diets center fats and sugars at the center of our diet and can have long term health effects ranging from hypertension, heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Now to add to this list of dangers from an unhealthy diet is a risk to our hearing – especially as we age.
The Risk of Hearing Loss as We Age
While hearing loss can affect anyone of any age, as we approach the age of 60, there is a one in four chance that you’ll have hearing loss. However, within five years the risk rises to one in three. For those 75 and older 50 percent will have some degree of hearing loss. Age related hearing loss, also known as presbycusis occurs from changes to the inner ear from a lifetime of hearing. We collect sound with our ears but listening and hearing happen in the brain. Hearing loss occurs when tiny hair cells called stereocilia become damaged or destroyed. There are several factors which can affect the risk of presbycusis including unsafe listening practices throughout life, impact to the head, ear infection, and exposure to certain chemicals. Another less known risk factor are diseases such as hypertension and cardiovascular disease, which become more common with age. It is important to remember that presbycusis is not a normal part of aging. There are things we can do to lower our risk as we age, including taking steps toward heart health.
Understanding How Diet Affects Hearing
Our total health is connected, so it is no surprise that hearing health and diet are interlinked. To explore this connection a little more, Dr. Sharon Curhan of the Channing Division of Network Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston conducted a study to identify an ideal diet to support hearing. Dr. Curhan’s and team examined the dietary choices of roughly 80,000 women over a 26 year span. Curhan explained, based on the data that “whose diets scored highest for health and quality were up to 47 percent less likely to experience moderate or severe hearing loss than women with the lowest dietary scores.”
How a Health Diet Supports Hearing Health
Our hearing health relies on the health of the hair-like cells to support health and an important aspect of this is heart health. Foods that are rich in fat and sugar can cause hypertension, heart disease and diabetes, all of which can affect the health of our cells. It’s no surprise then that the very fragile cells of the inner ear are often the first to sustain damage. It’s also noted that often a notable hearing loss may be a signal to test for heart disease and diabetes as they often go undetected for years without proper screenings.
What Nutrients support Hearing Health
So we know what we should avoid, but what should we be choosing instead? Well, a diet rich in vegetables may be our best choice. Some dieticians refer to it as eating a rainbow. A full spectrum of colorful vegetables along with fruits, lean proteins such as fish, poultry beans and legumes are ideal. Whole grains such as oats, brown rice, faro, amaranth and more will give you a feeling of fullness. In addition to protecting your hearing health, you may find that you’ll have more energy for longer amounts of time.
Treating Hearing Loss
When presbycusis does occur it’s important to remember that while you can take steps to keep it from getting worse, there is no way to reverse current damage. However, many people find that with hearing aids they are able to amplify the sounds they struggle with to access a healthy active lifestyle for years to come. Contact us to schedule your next hearing exam today!