Is your hearing not quite what it used to be? Do you find yourself turning up the TV just a little bit louder with each passing year?
If you’re like many folks, you’ve probably chalked it up to “getting older.”
After all everyone over 60 suffers from hearing loss, right?
Wrong. While we all lose some range of hearing as we age, significant hearing loss isn’t inevitable.
And major hearing problems that show up when you’re a senior aren’t always age-related either. At least, not directly.
In fact, there’s research linking hearing loss to an all too often ignored amino acid.
And if you’re lucky enough to have avoided hearing problems up until now, don’t think you’re off the hook.
Keep reading, because what you learn today may help assure you never do.
Hearing loss linked to homocysteine levels
You may have heard of homocysteine before. It’s a common amino acid, which I’ve mentioned many times here in Healthier Talk.
When your homocysteine levels are relatively low, they’re not a problem. But if your numbers start to soar, it’s a red flag.
High homocysteine in your blood is a sign of artery damage. And it’s linked to hardening of the arteries, blood clots, heart disease, stroke and dementia.
But it turns out high homocysteine could be behind your hearing loss too. Experts say the artery damage associated with excess homocysteine messes with blood flow to your inner ear. And that reduced blood flow can affect the cochlea, the part of your ear that allows you to hear sound
In the real world that means you might start having trouble hearing your spouse at a crowded dinner party. Or to make out what’s being said on your favorite news program you could have to keep turning the volume up.
But it turns out there’s a simple but effective way to keep homocysteine levels from soaring out of control. Which means you may be able to prevent, or at least slow down, age-related hearing loss.
Increase your folate levels.
Common vitamin linked to lower risk of hearing loss
Most folks associate the B vitamin folate, or folic acid the manufactured version of the vitamin, with pregnancy. Pregnant women take the vitamin to prevent neural tube defects in their developing babies.
But it turns out folate has another trick up its sleeve. It also helps your body break down homocysteine. And that could mean better hearing, according to researchers.
For example, in one study conducted at the University of Sydney scientists examined the blood of nearly 3,000 volunteers over the age of 50. They found that they folks with low folate levels were 34 percent more likely to have some age-related hearing loss.
When they checked the volunteer’s homocysteine levels, they were stunned. The men and women with high homocysteine were a stunning 65 percent more likely to suffer from hearing loss.
Of course, this wasn’t the first time we’d had a clue that folate and hearing loss may be linked. Far from it, in fact.
Higher folate levels linked to better hearing
In an earlier study researchers in the Netherlands revealed that taking folic acid may help prevent hearing loss. The scientists split a group of nearly 730 volunteers, ages 50 to 70, into two. One group received an 800 mcg of folic acid daily for three years. The other received a placebo.
While there was some hearing loss in both groups, there was a significant difference between the two. The lucky folks we received the supplement suffered from far less loss. In fact, the folic acid group was able to hear a much greater range of sounds than the men and women who got the placebo.
In another major study when researchers examined the nutritional details for over 50,000 guys over 60 the saw the same connection. The men with high folate levels had a 20 percent lower risk of hearing loss.
And in an animal study when researchers fed mice a folate deficient diet, their homocysteine shot up three fold. And they experienced severe hearing loss.
2 ways to raise your folate levels
While we can’t yet show that raising low folate levels to reduce homocysteine will prevent age-related hearing loss in humans, there’s plenty of smoke to indicate that it could significantly slow it down. In fact, it’s so thick you can hardly see through it.
Which means every single one of us should be sure we’re getting enough folate in our diet.
First you can raise your own levels of this vital B vitamin by eating more folate rich foods including…
- dark leafy greens (such as spinach and kale)
- citrus fruits
- beans, lentils and peas
- Brussels sprouts
- poultry and meat
- whole grains
Second, you might also want to consider taking a B-vitamin complex to help reduce your homocysteine levels. Most of these contain at least 500 mcg of folic acid.
If you’re concerned about your levels still being too low, standalone folic acid and folate supplements are also available. And since B vitamins are water-soluble, your body will excrete any excess it can’t use.
Make sure to maintain healthy folate levels and next time someone asks you, “Can you hear me now?” you may be able to respond, “Yes, I certainly can!”