It’s been well-documented that diet can have a profound effect on numerous aspects of well-being — weight, cardiovascular health, gut health, brain health, energy levels, and mood, to name a few. Now we might be adding hearing health to the list.
According to a May 2018 study published in The Journal of Nutrition, researchers from Boston have found a link between eating patterns and preserving good hearing. Since previous works had looked at a correlation between specific nutrients and hearing loss, investigators analyzed 22 years of medical data of nearly 71,000 women and closely looked at the foods they consumed on a regular basis.
After compiling the information, the study authors from Brigham and Women’s Hospital discovered that the females whose eating styles closely resembled either the Alternate Mediterranean diet (AMED) — a plan that consists of extra virgin olive oil, grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts, fish, and moderate intake of alcohol — or the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet — a plan that is high in fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy, and low in sodium — showed nearly a 30 percent lower risk of moderate or worse hearing loss compared to the women who rarely followed these lifestyles.
Also, additional results from a sub-cohort study of more than 33,000 females who provided more detailed hearing health information stated that this reduced risk may be greater than 30 percent and might be attributed to the Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010 (AHEI-2010) diet, which shares some common traits with both the AMED and DASH regimes.
Jennifer Caudle, DO, a board-certified family medicine physician and Associate Professor in the department of Family Medicine at Rowen University School of Osteopathic Medicine, explains the possible connection. “We know that a healthy diet can do so many good things for our body, including improving our cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, and decreasing inflammation,” she says. “And we think that it may also help protect against vascular compromise — the blood vessels — which can reduce blood flow to the cochlea of the ears.”
Dr. Caudle adds that this latest research is a prospective study, and it relied on patients’ self-reporting. “It relied on people saying what they felt their hearing was like — they didn’t actually have their hearing checked with a machine. It also relied on people saying what their diet was — it wasn’t as if someone was following them around to record everything,” she says.
And while this method of reporting comes with a certain margin of error, she considers the findings of this study to be “profound and super-interesting.”
“A really great thing about this data is that it suggests another potential conformation for eating a healthy diet,” says Caudle. “We still need further studies to say this definitively, but there does seem to be a possible connection between eating better and having a lower risk for hearing loss. That’s motivating to me as a doctor, and hopefully it is to patients, as well.”
This post was written by Amy Capetta.