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Is there a link between diet and hearing loss?

Ever wondered if there’s a link between diet and hearing loss?

We’ve all heard the saying ‘you are what you eat’.

Along with a whole lot of other words of wisdom, it’s true that we often tend to ignore the advice we’d prefer not to hear.

But like so many things, it turns out that a healthy diet can affect our hearing health.

The relationship between diet and hearing loss

 Way back in 2002, a US study – the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999–2002 – looked into the relationship between nutrition and how susceptible people were to hearing loss. The researchers examined data collected from people aged between 20 and 69.

They found that there was a relationship between the quality of people’s diets and their level of hearing loss at higher frequencies.

The better the quality of their diet, the better their hearing at high frequencies. For people who reported poor diets, they found that this group were more likely to have hearing loss at higher frequencies.

Why is hearing loss at high frequencies important?

Usually, it’s at the higher frequencies that we hear people talking. So, the loss of these high frequencies is a real problem for understanding speech. This is especially a problem when there’s background noise, such as in a restaurant or in a busy street.

High-frequency hearing loss is common when people have worked in noisy workplaces. It can also result from taking certain medications, such as when people take high doses of aspirin or antibiotics.

The link between diet and tinnitus

 Looking at the same US study, researcher Christopher Spankovich from the University of Mississippi, also found a link between a healthy diet and reports of persistent tinnitus.

Tinnitus is that annoying ‘ringing in the ears’ experienced by people of all ages.

According to the researchers: “Controlling for age, sex, race/ethnicity, diabetes, noise exposure and smoking status, we found that a healthier diet (poorer vs. better HEI (Healthy Eating Index)) decreased the odds of people reporting persistent tinnitus.

Healthy diets linked to lower risk of hearing loss in women

In another 2018 investigation, researchers found that women who had a diet based on fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, legumes, and olive oil, had a 30% lower risk of hearing loss compared to ‘standard’ diets.

Other aspects of diets with better hearing outcomes included:

  • eating fish
  • drinking only a moderate amount of alcohol.
  • eating more fruits, vegetables, nuts, lean meats, fish, and low-fat dairy
  • limiting sodium, sugar, and fat. limits sugar, salt, and animal fat.

According to scientist Sharon Curhan, “Eating well contributes to overall good health, and it may also be helpful in reducing the risk of hearing loss.”

Restricting your food intake may help prevent hearing loss

You may have heard about the 5:2 diet? It’s also known as ‘intermittent fasting’. That’s where for five days of the week you eat normally and for two days you restrict your food intake to around 500-600 kilojoules per day.

There’s also been some research done showing that cutting your food intake can also have benefits for your overall health – including your hearing health.

The search goes on…

Having looked at some of the studies on the link between diet and hearing loss, there’s no doubt that there is a link. A healthy diet certainly contributes to a better quality of life. And, according to the research available, may help your hearing health as well.

If you need more information about what makes up a ‘healthy diet’, we recommend you talk to your doctor. Or take a look at the Australian Government’s Eat for Health guidelines.