Good eating habits, for example following a Mediterranean diet, could reduce hearing loss among women aged over 50, a recent study suggests.
Choosing to eat more fruit and vegetables, foods that are high in fiber, and limiting the intake of sugar and fat in your daily diet has many proven health benefits: reduced risks of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, greater life expectancy, a better defense against depression...
Now an American study conducted by researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital (a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital) also indicates that that a healthy diet could help preserve good hearing ability. The researchers compiled data from more than 3,000 women with an average age of 59, who were followed for a period of three years.
Published in The American Journal of Epidemiology, the study explored the link between diet and hearing loss by comparing data on participants' eating habits and measuring longitudinal changes in their hearing sensitivity. For the purposes of the study, the researchers set up 19 geographically diverse testing sites across the United States and trained teams of licensed audiologists.
Eating habits were evaluated in comparison to three specific diets: the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, the Mediterranean diet, and the Alternate Healthy Index-2010 (AHEI-2010). The common factor among all of these diets is an emphasis on fruit and vegetables and avoidance of food that is high in fat and refined sugar.
30% lower risk of hearing loss with a balanced diet
The team observed that the probability of a reduction in mid-frequency hearing sensitivity was 30% lower among women who ate a balanced diet, when compared to women whose eating habits were not as healthy.
“A common perception is that hearing loss is an inevitable part of the aging process. However, our research focuses on identifying potentially modifiable risk factors—that is, things that we can change in our diet and lifestyle to prevent hearing loss or delay its progression,” explains Dr. Sharon Curhan, a physician and epidemiologist in the Brigham's Channing Division of Network Medicine, and the study's main author.
However, further research will be needed to confirm the conclusions of the study with a larger and more diverse populations (virtually all of those evaluated were white non-Hispanic women). The team at Brigham and Women's Hospital is hoping to continue to monitor changes to the study participants' hearing over time, and to extend its investigation to tens of thousands of participants in future studies.