In this age of information, we have started to really recognize the benefits of self-care. Taking care of our bodies and minds is not simply for those who have the extra time or money to do so. Self-care is vital for every individual’s happiness, wholeness, and success! Taking care of ourselves not only contributes to better overall health, but it may also lead to hearing loss prevention. Inversely, ignoring overall health may lead to negative consequences for our hearing health.
A study published by the American Journal of Audiology reviewed research from the past 60 years on cardiovascular health and its influence on hearing health. The results confirmed that impaired cardiovascular health negatively affects both the peripheral and central auditory system, especially in older adults. Good cardiovascular health increases blood flow in the body, especially the blood that flows to the head that provides oxygen—this keeps all systems at their optimum performance levels.
Overweight individuals on the other hand often experience poor blood circulation which causes a series of negative chain reactions within the body. Circulation can easily be improved by daily exercise—whether that be an easy walk or a tough bike ride is up to each individual. The important thing to remember is that individuals who are taking care of their heart health are contributing directly to their hearing health!
There are also certain foods that contain vital minerals for protecting our hearing health. One mineral that can help prevent hearing loss is potassium—it is responsible for regulating the amount of fluid in your blood and body tissue. The fluid in the inner ear is crucial because it translates the noises we hear into electrical impulses the brain can then interpret as sound. This fluid depends on potassium to function properly and research has linked a drop in aldosterol (the chemical that regulates potassium) to hearing loss. The drop in aldosterol is common with aging, so it is important to keep an eye on our potassium intake as we age. Potassium needs can either be fulfilled by supplements, or easily ingested from foods including bananas, spinach, tomatoes, raisins, apricots, melons, oranges, yogurt or milk.
Another important mineral is folic acid, which gives the body the 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 (the most common type of Sensorineural Hearing Loss). Again, supplements can be used but folic acid can be found in meats, spinach, broccoli, and asparagus.
The final two vital minerals for hearing health include magnesium and zinc. According to research conducted at the University of Michigan Kresge Hearing Research Institute, magnesium may help protect our ears from noise-related hearing loss. It has been hypothesized that magnesium combats the effects of free radicals emitted during loud noises—it provides a protective barrier for the delicate hair cells in the inner ear. A lack of magnesium can also cause blood vessel shrinkage, which as we discussed before can lead to disfunction in the ear. Munch on a banana, artichoke, broccoli or some spinach to get your fill of magnesium.
Last but not least is zinc. This mineral does a myriad of things for the body including boosting the immune system, helping with cell growth, healing wounds and warding off germs. Food rich in zinc includes beef, pork, dark-meat chicken, cashews, almonds, peanuts, beans, or dark chocolate.
Taking care of ourselves has become an important aspect of modern life and as you can see there are numerous rewards that come from healthier living. Take 30 minutes every day to raise your heart rate and incorporate some of the foods listed above to improve hearing health and prevent hearing loss. It is never too late to start living a healthier, more balanced life!