Joni Mitchell said it best—you really don’t know what you got till it’s gone. And it’s hard to imagine anything we take for granted more than crystal clear hearing.
It isn’t as obvious as other chronic conditions like osteoporosis, heart disease, or even vision loss. But presbycusis (the fancy term for age-related hearing loss) can hijack your sanity all the same. All while making some of life’s greatest pleasures—meaningful conversations, your favorite music, or your grandchildren’s laughter—harder to enjoy than ever.
Luckily, recent research shows that—for women, at least—warding off presbycusis could be as simple as buying the right groceries every week. But guys keep reading too, because there’s no reason to think this same trick won’t work for you as well.
Study tracked eating habits over two decades
Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital conducted this exciting new study They carefully analyzed detailed dietary information from more than 80,000 women in the Nurses Health Study II, keeping track of what the volunteers ate for more than two decades.
The researchers then used that data to calculate scores based on how closely the women followed any of three well known dietary patterns…
- Alternate Mediterranean diet (AMED)
- Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH)
- Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010 (AHEI-2010)
In case you’re unfamiliar, here’s a quick rundown. The AMED fits the bill of a classic Mediterranean diet—rich in extra virgin olive oil, fruits and veggies, beans and whole grains, nuts, fish and moderate alcohol intake. In other words, the kind of diet I’m always encouraging you to adopt.
DASH, on the other hand, focuses on fruits and veggies, low-fat dairy, and most notably, low sodium intake. While the AHEI-2010 has features of both diets.
But let’s get to the good part.
Slash hearing loss risk 30% with diet alone
In the end, women with diets most closely aligned to AMED or DASH enjoyed an incredible 30 percent lower risk of moderate or worse hearing loss. And that’s just a conservative estimate. Because results in women with more detailed hearing data suggested the benefit may actually be a lot larger.
Either way, the big picture matters—that much is clear. Sticking with a healthy diet overall is a win-win scenario where your hearing is concerned.
But there are number of individual nutrients that have a research-proven role in the fight against hearing loss. And it’s a good idea to make sure they’re well represented on your grocery list…
1. Folate and B12:
Taken together, these nutrients help your body to break down an amino acid called homocysteine. And research shows this has benefits for your hearing as well as your heart.
Dark leafy greens, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, citrus fruits, avocado, seeds and nuts are all great sources of folate. But animal foods—such as meat, fish, eggs and dairy—are the only way to get a significant amount of B12 from your diet.
2. Vitamins A and E:
Of all the antioxidants that can help spare your hearing, vitamins A and E seem to be the most powerful. One study showed that folks with the highest intake of vitamin A cut their risk of hearing loss nearly in half. While foods rich in vitamin E cut risk by a healthy14 percent.
You can get your vitamin A from carrots, sweet potatoes, squash and dark leafy greens. And to boost your vitamin E try eating more sunflower seeds, spinach and almonds.
Research shows that two servings of omega-3 rich, cold water fish weekly can cut your risk of age-related hearing loss by 42 percent. As if you needed another reason to eat more wild-caught salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines.