Nutrition and Hearing: Top Foods to Consume and Avoid

You're probably aware that certain foods can help with vision (carrots, anyone?), but nutrition also affects your hearing. In celebration of March as National Nutrition Month, we've compiled a list of foods and nutrients that can help improve your hearing, as well as a list of foods that can have a negative impact.

Consume More:

  1. Vitamin B12, contained in meat, eggs, poultry, dairy products, and other foods from animals. Strict vegetarians and vegans are at high risk for developing a B12 deficiency, which can affect your balance, among many other things. This is especially important for those of you with Tinnitus and Balance Disorder.
  2. Folate/Folic Acid/Vitamin B9, found in spinach, bok choy, romaine, asparagus, turnip greens, broccoli, and beans (especially lentils and garbanzo beans). Folate has been shown to improve Tinnitus, as well as sudden and age-related hearing loss, although more testing is needed. Folate helps increase circulation, improving blood flow to the inner ear.
  3. Omega 3s, found in many fish (most notably salmon), walnuts, and flax and chia seeds. A 2014 study showed that regular consumption of fish (2 or more servings/week) was associated with a lower risk of hearing loss in women. 
  4. Magnesium, included in fruits and vegetables, such as bananas, artichokes, potatoes, spinach, tomatoes and broccoli. Magnesium helps combat free radicals and acts as a protective barrier for the delicate hair cells in the inner ear. University of Michigan researchers found that this nutrient, combined with Vitamins A, C & E, helps prevent noise-induced hearing loss by blocking the creation of free radicals. 
  5. Zinc, found in protein-rich foods like oysters, grass-fed beef, pumpkin seeds, tahini (ground sesame seeds), cashews, almonds, spinach, and dark chocolate. Zinc has shown to improve sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL) — a sudden, unexplained loss of hearing. Zinc boosts the body’s immune system and is also responsible for cell growth and healing, so it’s potentially helpful in warding off ear infections. Some studies suggest it’s also effective in treating tinnitus in individuals with normal hearing.
  6. Potassium, found in bananas, potatoes, spinach, lima beans, tomatoes, raisins, apricots, melons, oranges, yogurt and low-fat milk. Potassium is responsible for regulating the amount of fluid in your blood and body tissue. That’s important to your hearing health because fluid in the inner ear is dependent upon a rich supply of potassium, especially in that part of the ear that translates the noises we hear into electrical impulses the brain interprets as sound.

Studies have shown that a deficiency in nutrients, such as B12 and folic acid, can impair hearing by as much as 39%, while increasing these nutrients can protect hearing by as much as 20%. Folic acid deficiency specifically has been linked with high-frequency hearing loss. Much of this damage is due to free radicals. Antioxidants like B12, folic acid, Omega 3s, and vitamin A are all important because they help fight off damaging free radicals. Here is a good webmd.com article about antioxidants and free radicals.

Avoid or Consume Less:

  1. Vegetable oils, as they contain too many Omega 6 fatty acids. Instead, use EVOO or Canola oil, which are rich in Omega 3s. 
  2. Margarine/Partially Hydrogenated Oils found mostly in processed foods 
  3. High fat meats, especially those treated with nitrates/nitrites (preservatives)
  4. Whole/2% milk - use a dairy substitute such as almond, rice, or coconut milk
  5. Cream cheese - replace with goat cheese or part skim organic ricotta
  6. Processed cheeses, such as American - opt for organic/grass-fed hard cheese 
  7. Sugar and artificial sweeteners - limit these or replace with Stevia, honey, or real maple syrup
  8. Refined carbohydrates - These include white breads, pasta, and any foods containing “enriched” flour, which means nutrients have been removed from the grain 
  9. Sodium - We need it in small quantities, but you should maintain a higher ratio of potassium to sodium. Packaged and processed foods have WAY too much sodium.
  10. Chemicals/pesticides - Wash your produce! Buy organic when you can. Here is a list of EWG's 2017 "Dirty Dozen," the produce with the highest pesticide residue, as well as the "Clean Fifteen," with the lowest.

As a general rule for foods to avoid, eat food the way it was meant to be eaten. Food doesn't grow in a box, so don't buy it that way! Use herbs instead of heavy sauces and creams for added flavor. 

As always, feel free to contact us if you have any questions! Happy eating!