Healthy diets are linked to countless health benefits. Not only do they help reduce the risk of heart disease and some forms of cancer but they are also linked to positive outcomes in mental health, as well. The quality of life benefits of healthy eating are abundant, ranging from shiny hair and strong nails to feeling energetic and mentally focused. In addition to these many benefits of good nutrition, a recent study discovered a surprising link that few might have expected: reduced risk of hearing loss. How and why might hearing loss be linked to nutrition? The researchers took a look at women who had followed something close to two specific diets, and we will take a look at the unique features of each.
Hearing Loss and Nutrition
The study was conducted through Brigham and Women’s Hospital by the lead researcher Sharon Curhan, MD. Dr. Curhan is a physician and epidemiologist at Brigham’s Channing Division of Network Medicine, and she embarked on the research with a rich data set. The study made use of participant information over 20 years at 19 testing locations around the United States. The research participants tended to be in their 50s and early 60s with an average age of 59, which is significantly younger than the average age of a person who seeks treatment for hearing loss. For this reason, the results came as a surprise to the researchers.
Hearing ability was tested in three frequency ranges: low, middle, and high. The rates of hearing loss were quite high, even with a sample of respondents who were younger than the average patron of an audiologist or hearing specialist. Overall, 19 percent of participants had hearing loss in the low frequency range, 38 percent demonstrated loss in the middle range, and nearly half of participants had hearing loss in the high frequency range. Although these overall rates were high, the study also correlated the rates of hearing loss with dietary habits.
Using data from the testing centers over 20 years, the researchers matched eating habits that most closely resembled two diets: Dietary Approaches to Stopping Hypertension (DASH) and the Mediterranean Diet. Indeed, those who followed these diets had lower rates of hearing loss than their counterparts who did not follow healthy eating.
What Is a Healthy Diet?
With these surprising results in place, you might be curious what makes these two diets different from the many other nutritional plans out there. The two diets have a lot in common. The DASH diet and the Mediterranean Diet both emphasize plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and plant-based proteins. They both restrict the consumption of processed foods, sugary drinks or desserts, and high-sodium products or snacks. Where they differ is in the details.
The DASH diet follows nutritional research that has linked saturated fats to heart disease and hypertension. By restricting the consumption of red meat, butter, and other sources of saturated fat, the diet has had good results with reducing the rates of these health risks. On the other hand, the Mediterranean Diet includes the consumption of olive oil and encourages consuming seafood. As well, the Mediterranean Diet allows a glass of red wine with dinner, finding that many people in the Mediterranean region have this habit, even a disproportionate number of “centenarians” or people who live beyond the age of 100!
Treatment for Hearing Loss
Incorporating these healthy diet habits into your lifestyle is one approach to preventing hearing loss, according to the results of this study. Other habits, such as wearing earplugs in loud locations and limiting the use of earbuds or headphones are effective to prevent hearing loss, as well. But what can you do if you have already incurred hearing loss?
If you suspect that some of your hearing ability has been limited or weakened, the time is now for a hearing exam. This test is painless, easy, and quick, and the results are necessary to pair you with the right set of hearing aids for your individual hearing ability and lifestyle. With your hearing test results, our team will be able to guide you toward treatment, so don’t put off scheduling your hearing exam!