While many consumers are worried about the implications of hearing loss in old age, a new study conducted by researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital could help older consumers fight hearing loss.
According to the researchers, following a healthier diet is an easy way to help reduce the risk of hearing loss.
“A common perception is that hearing loss is an inevitable part of the aging process,” said researcher Dr. Sharon Curhan. “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. 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.”
Prioritizing healthy eating
The researchers had over 3,100 women participated in the study, all of whom reported on their daily dietary habits every four years for the duration of the study.
For the diet component, the researchers were most interested to see how the participants’ diets stacked up against three popular diets, all of which have been touted to boost consumers’ health: the Alternate Healthy Index-2010, the DASH diet, and the Mediterranean Diet. The first gives consumers a score based on their eating habits that has become an excellent predictor of disease; the DASH diet encourages consumers to eat foods that promote healthy blood pressure; and the Mediterranean Diet has consumers cut out processed foods.
To assess the participants’ hearing levels, the researchers tested their hearing at the beginning of the study and again three years later. While no single dietary plan came out on top, the researchers learned that following healthier diets was associated with better hearing outcomes for the women involved in the study.
Making positive changes sooner rather than later
The researchers say that the decline in participants’ hearing occurred rather rapidly, spanning the course of just a few years. The team emphasized the importance of consumers changing habits within their control, like their diets, and prioritizing doctors’ visits. Both actions can help consumers stay on top of their healthcare and ensure that they do everything possible to prevent hearing loss before it becomes problematic.
“The association between diet and hearing sensitivity decline encompassed frequencies that are critical for speech understanding,” said Dr. Curhan. “After only three years, 19 percent had hearing loss in their 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.”