Eating a Healthy Diet May Reduce the Risk of Hearing Loss

The findings of a recent study suggest that adhering to a healthy diet may reduce the risk of acquired hearing loss, especially among older women. The study appeared in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

“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,” said lead author Sharon Curhan, MD, a physician and epidemiologist in the Brigham’s Channing Division of Network Medicine in a press release about the study. “The benefits of adherence to healthful dietary patterns have been associated with numerous positive health outcomes and eating a healthy diet may also help reduce the risk of hearing loss.”

In this study, investigators from Brigham and Women’s Hospital recruited 3,135 women (mean age, 59) in the Nurses’ Health Study II, which was conducted between 2012-2018. They calculated all diet adherence scores for the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) and Alternate Mediterranean (AMED) diets and the Alternate Healthy Eating Index (AHEI-2010) using validated food frequency questionnaires. The researchers assessed hearing sensitivities at 19 sites across the US utilizing pure-tone audiometry and examined independent links between diet adhere scores and low-frequency pure-tone averages at a low-, mid- and high-frequency.

Healthy Eating Linked to Better Hearing

According to the results of the study, the odds of a decline in mid-frequency hearing sensitivities were almost 30% lower among women whose diet most closely resembled the healthy dietary patterns, compared with women whose diets least resembled the same patterns. In the higher frequency group, the odds of hearing decline were up to 25% lower.

“The association between diet and hearing sensitivity decline encompassed frequencies that are critical for speech understanding,” continued Dr. Curhan.

“We were surprised that so many women demonstrated hearing decline over such a relatively short period of time. The mean age of the women in our study was 59 years; most of our participants were in their 50s and early 60s. This is a younger age than when many people think about having their hearing checked. After only three years, 19 percent had hearing loss in the low frequencies, 38 percent had hearing loss in the mid-frequencies, and almost half had hearing loss in the higher frequencies. Despite this considerable worsening in their hearing sensitivities, hearing loss among many of these participants would not typically be detected or addressed.”