A Healthy Diet May Help Prevent Age-Related Hearing Loss for Women

A Healthy Diet May Help Prevent Age-Related Hearing Loss for Women

In Hearing Health by Jeff Baller, Au.D., CCC-A

Jeff Baller, Au.D., CCC-A

When we eat healthy foods, our lives benefit in countless ways. Not only do we tend to feel like we have more energy and vitality, but our bodies benefit greatly, as well. Healthy diets are related to reduced risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular conditions, as well as reduced risk of some forms of cancer. 

With such wide-ranging effects of a healthy diet, it might come as a surprise that a healthy diet can even help with your hearing. Although past studies have traced the relationship between specific vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids and hearing health, a longitudinal study over 26 years out of Harvard Medical School has discovered a link with healthy eating, more generally. 

Let’s take a look at the study, as well as the ways that you can incorporate a healthy diet into your lifestyle in a way that leads to lasting results. 

Healthy Diet and Hearing Loss

The study conducted by Dr. Sharon Curhan analyzed data from more than 80,000 women between ages 25 and 42 over the course of 26 years of their lives. Beginning in 1989, the study asked them to report on their eating habits and gave those reports a score of how “healthy” their eating was. With these results in hand, the study then tracked the results of hearing tests. 

After controlling for other factors, the study considered the isolated effect of healthy eating on hearing assessments. You might be wondering how the researchers defined healthy eating, and they used three dietary styles to get a sense of how these women were eating. All three diets had in common an emphasis on fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, and whole grains. They each limited consumption of processed meats, sugars, and salty foods. The diets did have some differences, though. 

The first diet is called the Mediterranean Diet, and it emphasizes eating fish and olive oil. This diet also permits drinking red wine in moderation. 

The second diet is called Dietary Approaches to Stopping Hypertension (DASH), and it is stricter when it comes to fats and alcohol. 

The final diet follows the Alternative Healthy Eating Index (AHEI). This final dietary style used to be simply the Healthy Eating Index (HEI) and it emphasized a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet. We now know that too many carbohydrates can be detrimental to our health, so the AHEI emphasizes the quality of foods in each category, pointing out that whole grains are better carbohydrates than refined sugars and that fish and poultry are better sources of fats than red meat. 

With this data in hand, the results of the study were striking. Those who followed a healthier diet with higher quality foods were up to 47 percent less likely to have moderate or serious hearing loss than their counterparts who ate less healthily. 

How to Incorporate a Healthy Diet

With these results, you might be interested in modifying your diet in order to reap the benefits for your hearing and other aspects of health. However, many of us feel overwhelmed when we think about changing dietary habits. Our favorite treats, snacks, and savory meals feel unavoidable, and we want to indulge whenever we have the chance. What can you do to limit intake of these harmful foods while promoting healthier foods. 

Discovering healthy foods that you truly enjoy can be part of the solution. It feels like ice cream and potato chips are inherently more delicious than zucchini and celery, yet the right preparation can go a long way. Test different recipes that fit the parameters of any of these three healthy diets and you will be sure to find some that are enticing to you. 

Another helpful tool can be to find the right way to feel satisfied by your meals. Some people prefer to eat several small meals throughout the day, limiting their intake but knowing that another snack is right around the corner. Others would rather have two to three large meals for the day and to limit snacking until the next meal comes along. 

Knowing your own tendencies can help you find a healthy eating style that improves the quality and type of foods while also remaining satisfied and getting the nutrients you need. 

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