As we age, hearing can gradually change, but recent studies suggest that eating a vitamin and mineral rich diet may help protect against gradual hearing loss. Both vitamins and minerals play important roles in our overall health and proper body function. There are many important minerals you need to keep your body healthy and strong, but the following are crucial for preserving good hearing:
- Potassium: Potassium is responsible for regulating the amount of fluid in your blood and body tissue. That can be important to your hearing health because fluid in the inner ear, that part of the ear that translates the noises we hear into electrical impulses the brain interprets as sound, is dependent upon a rich supply of potassium. Levels naturally drop as we age which could be a contributing factor for presbycusis—or age-related hearing loss.
- Folic Acid: Folic acid is a critical element in your body’s ability to generate new cell growth. Studies have shown that adults with low levels of folic acid in their blood are more likely to develop presbycusis. Some studies show folic acid supplements may slow down hearing loss. That might be because the body uses folic acid to metabolize homocysteine, an inflammatory compound that reduces circulation. Good circulation is an important component in keeping the hair cells of the inner ear healthy and working properly. Folate-rich foods include organ meats, spinach, broccoli and asparagus.
- Magnesium: Research conducted at the University of Michigan Kresge Hearing Research Institute has shown that people pretreated with magnesium (along with Vitamins A, C, and E) were protected from noise-related hearing loss. Scientists believe this is because magnesium combats the effects of free radicals emitted during loud noises — almost like a protective barrier for the delicate hair cells in the inner ear. Also, lack of adequate magnesium in the inner ear causes the blood vessels to shrink, depriving it of valuable oxygen. Foods rich in magnesium include fruits and vegetables such as bananas, artichokes, potatoes, spinach, tomatoes and broccoli.
- Zinc: Zinc boosts body’s immune system and is also responsible for cell growth. Some studies suggest it’s also effective in treating tinnitus in individuals with normal hearing. Zinc does interact with antibiotics and diuretics though, so seek a physician’s advice before using supplements.
An important hormone called aldosterol is partially responsible for regulating potassium, and research has linked a drop in aldosterol, common with aging, with hearing loss. While no direct link has been found that would justify taking potassium supplements to improve hearing health, eating foods containing potassium is beneficial to your overall health. Some potassium-rich foods are: potatoes, spinach, lima beans, tomatoes, raisins, apricots, bananas, melons, oranges, yogurt and milk.
Foods rich in zinc include beef, pork and dark-meat chicken, cashews, almonds, peanuts, beans, split peas, lentils, oysters and dark chocolate. Granola with nuts, dark chocolate, oats, popped quinoa, raisins, dried cranberries and coconut flakes are a great source of zinc as well.
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