You’ve probably heard that carrots are good for your eyes because of Vitamin A and other things, right? Well, wouldn’t it make sense then that certain other nutrients could help protect your other senses? Take hearing for example. If you find that your hearing isn’t quite what it used to be, you may be able to make a difference based on your diet. Nutritional imbalances have long been overlooked and ignored as a potential source of hearing loss because after all, seeing is believing- and no one sees hearing loss.
However, more and more evidence suggests that nutrition, or the lack of it, can contribute to hearing loss. Specifically, in populations lacking long-chain PUFAs, folate, β-carotene, and vitamins A, E, and C, there is some increase in hearing loss. In fact, the presence of these vitamins contributes to regulating redox stress, protecting cochlear function, and enabling hearing. It turns out that there are a lot of things that may impact hearing. In fact, regular physical activity can protect one’s senses- which is why researchers believe that reduced physical activity and obesity can play a role in a person’s hearing loss.
It’s now believed that the hearing loss that comes with age has less to do with mechanical or structural dysfunction, and more to do with the relationship between the brain and the ears- specifically, how the two communicate and process information. If the brain cannot provide appropriate feedback, for example, helping to filter out stimuli that are present, but unimportant, then it can be difficult to hear and understand the important things that a person wants to hear; there will be some trouble dealing with all the audible stimuli in an given area.
Knowing this information opens the pathways to resolving a number of hearing related issues, including hearing loss related to aging. For example, research to resolve tinnitus, which is often associated with damage caused by noise, has recently seen breakthroughs; the same is true for cases of sudden loss of hearing.
Some Nutrients Safeguard Hearing
As mentioned earlier, There are a number nutrients that can contribute to improved hearing. The following are the nutrients which have been found to be most beneficial for protecting and improving hearing.
To clarify, these nutrients are invaluable for hearing because:
- These nutrients possess antioxidant properties, which means they prevent damage caused by oxidative stress in the cochlea and other regions of the ear. Additionally, they limit the damage caused by free radicals as well.
- They may also provide improvements to blood flow, which in turn can also reduce damage to the cochlea that might otherwise occur if the vascular system is compromised in that region of the body.
- They can provide improvement to the homocysteine metabolism
That being said, some of these nutrients are more respected than others when it comes to boosting hearing health. Zinc and Folate have earned their places quite well. On the other hand, Vitamin A finds only mixed support. This may be in part because of one particular study of more than 65,500 women; in this study, there was no correlation found between vitamin A intake and the risk for hearing loss. Even so, there have been a number of other studies that have uncovered positive correlations. Consider the following examples paraphrased from reporting by Weston A. Price:10
“In 1984, a European study reported a decibel improvement of 5 to 15 in patients who had age-related hearing loss when they were given Vitamin A and Vitamin E. According to other researchers a deficiency of Vitamin A can result in a decline in the number of sensory cells found in the nose, tongue and inner ear.
Furthermore, a 1993 study reported in Science uncovered the fact that vitamin A can stimulate the regeneration of mammalian auditory hair cells. In addition, in 2009, Japanese researchers found that the adults with the highest blood serum levels of vitamin A and carotenoids have the lowest risk for hearing loss.
Finally, in 2014, it was determined by researchers that a Vitamin A deficiency during pregnancy, especially during the earliest stages of fetal development ‘may predispose offspring to inner ear malformations and sensorial hearing loss.'”
In conclusion, if these results are any indication, Vitamin A is a significant contributor to ear and hearing health; even if it were not, it is also invaluable for eye health, and should be consumed regularly anyway.
Tinnitus Remedied by Folate
There is some research to suggest that tinnitus can be better managed by regular folate intake. This is particularly true for tinnitus that originates from noise damage. Generally, this form of tinnitus is distinguished from others by the constant, sometimes intermittent ringing in the ears, regardless of other sounds or even silence. Tinnitus has been linked with a deficiency of various B vitamins, so folate (vitamin B9), has been shown to be beneficial. Additionally, folate also contributes to lower levels of homocysteine, which protects hearing health, given that a high blood level of homocysteine has been linked to hearing loss.
If it turns out that you’re not getting your recommended daily allowance (RDA) of folate, you have options. You can take various B vitamin supplements, or you can turn to natural sources. Ideally, you can adhere to a proper, healthy, and balanced diet to raise your folate levels accordingly. In order to do that, you’ll want to consume plenty of fresh, as well as raw and organic leafy green vegetables. If you turn to supplements instead, chances are your folate will come in the form of folic acid, which is synthetic.
While it is possible to get folate from supplements, generally it is a better idea to get it from the food you eat instead, if you can. This is because in order for folic acid to be of use to your body, it must first be converted into a biologically active form which is known as — L-5-MTHF. Only in this form can folate cross the blood-brain barrier.
Some estimates indicate half of adults have trouble making use of folic acid because they cannot convert it into L-5-MTHF. This is thought to be because of a reduction of enzyme activity; this reduction seems to be genetic. What does this mean? It means even if you get folate from a supplement, you may not be able to make use of it if it’s in the wrong form, and your body has trouble with the conversion. That’s why it’s better to get folate from natural food sources. If you must use a supplement however, choose one that contains natural folate.
Fortunately, children do not have this problem with folate conversion. For the rest of us, it’s time to pile on the asparagus, spinach, turnip greens and broccoli. All of these are excellent sources of folate, as well as beans, including lentils and garbanzo beans.