Hearing loss can affect our daily lives in many ways: making it difficult to hold normal conversations, talk on the phone, and hear everyday important sounds like doorbells and smoke alarms. Whether your hearing loss is due to noise-induced hearing loss, presbycusis (age-related hearing loss), or some other factor, you may not immediately realize the loss of hearing because hearing loss is usually gradual. There many factors affecting hearing loss, but there are also actions you can take to maintain healthy hearing for as long as possible.
Can Exercise Help with Hearing Loss?
Not to sound like your doctor, but if you don’t exercise regularly, you really should reconsider! The benefits of exercise are well documented: exercise can help with weight loss, reduce the risk of diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, increase your energy level, and improve your mood and sleep quality. But does it help with hearing health?
The short answer is yes, exercise can help prevent hearing loss to some degree. In a recent study, researchers compared two sets of mice: those that got regular exercise and those that didn’t. Over time, the mice that exercised regularly had much less cochlear hair cell loss, less spiral ganglion neuron loss, and better auditory brainstem response than mice that did not exercise. This shows that exercising regularly may prevent or significantly delay age-related hearing loss.
The prevailing thought is that as you age inflammation may lead to damage of parts of your inner ear, such as hair cells and nerves. This damage is permanent, as hair cells and nerves do not regenerate. Exercise improves your cardiovascular health, which means that blood is circulating throughout your body, including your ears which reduces inflammation. So exercising everyday can improve your hearing health and delay age-related hearing loss.
So what kind of exercises should you be doing? Getting to the gym and participating in classes that offer high intensity interval training will really get you moving and increase your fitness and help with hearing health. But if that’s not your thing, really any type of exercise will work: jogging, hiking, cycling, or even walking or golfing. The key is to stay active and do it regularly: 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day should be your goal.
Nutrition and Hearing Health
We all know that good nutrition is paramount to leading a long, healthy life. What’s not as well known is that good nutrition is connected to hearing health as well! Obviously, there are no miracle foods that prevent hearing loss or restore lost hearing. But research suggests that maintaining certain elements in your diet can greatly reduce your risk of experiencing hearing loss.
One study that followed the hearing health of over 70,000 women for 22 years found significant a significant decrease in the likelihood of developing hearing loss depending on the type of diet followed. Diets high in fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, legumes, whole grains, seafood, poultry, and low-fat dairy resulted in a 30 percent decrease in the chance of developing hearing loss. The study advised limiting foods that have high sodium and cholesterol, red and processed meats, processed foods, and sugary beverages.
What is Auditory Training?
Auditory training, also referred to as aural rehabilitation, is a technique developed to maximize the residual hearing of people with hearing loss. This is accomplished by a series of exercises designed to improve and strengthen the brain’s ability to process auditory information. Auditory training programs help train the brain to improve auditory working memory, processing speed, and auditory attention. Using auditory training helps people with hearing loss function better in everyday life.
Auditory training is primarily done under the supervision of a hearing health professional who guides individuals with the aid of technology. However, there are simple exercises you can do at home to help train your brain to process auditory information. One exercise is to create a noisy (but not dangerously loud) environment by turning up the volume on your TV or radio. Have someone walk around the room reading aloud from a book or magazine and then try to repeat the text back to the person.
Another exercise to increase your processing speed is to have someone hide an object that emits a consistent sound, such as a timer or metronome. In a noisy environment, try to follow the sound and locate the object as quickly as you can.
Vitamins and Supplements for Hearing Health
There are a surprising number of vitamins and supplements that promote hearing health:
- Potassium: Although no research has shown a direct link between potassium and hearing health, there are thoughts of a possible connection. Potassium regulates the amount of fluids in the blood and tissues of the body. Circulation has been found to be important for hearing health, and potassium plays a role in maintaining good circulation, so maintaining a healthy level of potassium could play a role in hearing health. Some potassium-rich foods include potatoes, bananas, spinach, tomatoes, melons, yogurt, and milk.
- Magnesium: Magnesium in combination with vitamins A, C, and E, may also be important to hearing health. In a research study, people given these supplements were protected from inner ear trauma related to loud noises. The researchers believe the supplements both combat free radicals associated with loud noise and dilate blood vessels, allowing the inner ear access to valuable oxygen. Foods that contain magnesium include bananas, artichokes, potatoes, spinach, tomatoes, and broccoli.
- Zinc: Zinc is great for enhancing your immune system, promoting cell growth, and healing wounds. People take zinc to prevent colds and the flu, and it may help prevent ear infections and reduce the effects of tinnitus. Zinc-rich foods include beef, pork, cashews, almonds, peanuts, lentils, and dark chocolate.
The information in this guide has been written using the following reliable sources: