As an audiologist and hearing health professional, I have seen hearing loss's impact on a person's quality of life. While hearing aids and cochlear implants can help improve hearing, I always encourage my patients to engage in health-promoting behaviors to protect their hearing and overall health.
One area that many people inquire about is supplements. It makes sense that patients want to think about preventative measures when it comes to hearing loss, as we don't yet have the technology to restore hearing damage that has occurred. In this article, we will explore what you need to know about supplements and hearing health.
What to Know About Supplements and Hearing Health
There have been several studies that suggest a correlation between certain supplements and improved hearing health. However, it's important to remember that correlation is not the same as causation. While we should consider the studies, it's essential to look at the evidence and what recommendations may help preserve or protect against hearing loss.
Before diving into any supplement regime, it's wise to consult with your physician, especially if you're already taking any medications. Some supplements can interact with medications, so getting the green light from your doctor before adding anything new to your routine is essential.
Beware of Overhyped Claims
Unfortunately, some websites or companies make strong claims about what their supplements can do without solid evidence supporting these claims. Remember, supplements are not magic pills. Additionally, with much of our research, it can be tricky to tease out whether it was a specific supplement or whether health-conscious individuals are overall more healthy and therefore have less incidence of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or other illness.
I say this not to dissuade you from pursuing supplementation but rather to encourage you to think critically about any marketing claims you may come across. In the following sections, I'll explain exactly what we do (and don't) know regarding hearing health and supplementation.
Antioxidants: Vitamins A, C, and E
One group of supplements linked to hearing health is antioxidants, such as vitamins A, C, and E, according to a large-scale NIH study on diet and lifestyle related to audio-vestibular dysfunction in older adults. These vitamins help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals, which can contribute to numerous health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and even hearing loss. Antioxidants help maintain balance by neutralizing free radicals and reducing oxidative stress. You can increase your intake of these vitamins by incorporating foods like leafy greens, carrots, sweet potatoes, citrus fruits, and nuts into your diet. Alternatively, you can consider antioxidant supplements like Carlyle Antioxidant supplements.
Magnesium is another essential mineral that may help prevent hearing loss. In a retrospective study of NHANES data examining about 2600 participants between ages 20 - 69, β-carotene, vitamin C, and magnesium were associated with lower (better) PTAs at both speech and high frequencies. Other studies find that magnesium helps by reducing noise-induced vasoconstriction.
These findings suggest that dietary intakes of antioxidants and magnesium are associated with lower risks of hearing loss. Dietary sources of magnesium include spinach, avocados, and pumpkin seeds. However, if you're not getting enough magnesium from your diet, you may want to consider taking a supplement after consulting with your doctor.
Note there are several kinds of magnesium supplements available. The most bioavailable form is magnesium glycinate. If you're not meeting your magnesium needs through diet alone, a supplement like Doctor's Best Magnesium Glycinate may be worth considering after consulting with your physician. Remember that different types of magnesium supplements are available, with magnesium glycinate being the most bioavailable option.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fatty acids, are another essential nutrient that may benefit hearing health. According to research by Gopinath et al., dietary intervention with omega-3 fatty acids may help prevent or delay the onset of age-related hearing loss (A-RHL). This benefit may be related to the ability of polyunsaturated fatty acids to promote healthy auditory function by maintaining adequate vascular supply to the cochlea. These fatty acids also help reduce inflammation, which may contribute to disease processes and potentially hearing loss.
The American Heart Association recommends consuming at least 250 mg/day of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids or at least two servings per week of oily fish, a rich source of these fatty acids. If you're not getting enough omega-3 from your diet, consider taking a supplement, such as Nature Made Fish Oil, after consulting your doctor.
For men 60 and older, folate may play a role in reducing the risk of age-related hearing loss. A large NIH prospective study of 26,000 men found that men with higher levels of folate intake had better hearing compared to those with lower levels. The study also found that folate was more protective against hearing loss for men 60 and older than vitamin C, E, B12, or beta carotene. Foods high in folate include leafy greens, beans, and fortified cereals. A folate supplement, such as Doctor's Best Fully Active Folate, is another way to ensure adequate intake.
Mediterranean Diet and Lifestyle Modifications For Hearing Health
Finally, even more effective than supplements are lifestyle and nutrition. The Mediterranean diet and a healthy lifestyle, in general, have been shown to help protect against hearing loss. Anything that boosts cardiovascular health will benefit hearing, as the inner ear is very sensitive to blood flow. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has conducted research suggesting that adhering to a Mediterranean diet and making certain lifestyle modifications may offer protection against audio-vestibular dysfunction in older adults. This diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats and has been linked to improved cardiovascular health. These lifestyle modifications encompass an adequate intake of protein, moderate consumption of carbohydrates and sugars, regular physical activity, good sleep quality, and abstaining from smoking.
When we think about preventing hearing loss, the most effective methods involve healthy habits that improve lifespan and healthspan. As their name suggests, supplements are meant to add extra benefits to your healthy lifestyle, but the main focus should be a healthy lifestyle. Incorporating a focus on wellness, including stress management, adequate sleep and rest, regular physical activity, and good nutrition, goes a long way to help you feel (and hear) your best.
Supplements can be an excellent addition to a healthy lifestyle to help protect and preserve hearing health. However, it's important to remember that no supplement can guarantee perfect hearing, and it's essential to consult with your doctor before starting any supplement regimen. Eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and avoiding excessive noise exposure are still the best ways to protect your hearing health. So, let's be proactive and take the necessary steps to preserve our hearing for years to come.