Most of us are aware that we need to protect our ears from loud noises that can cause damage to our ears. It’s also clear that people sometimes experience loss of hearing as they get older. What you might not know is that what you eat plays an important role in keeping your ears healthy and preventing hearing loss. You need to make sure you’re getting enough of the following minerals and vitamins:
The nerves in your inner ear, known as “hair cells”, translate the noises you hear into electrical impulses that your brain interprets as sound. These cells depend on healthy blood flow, and the amount of fluid in your blood and body tissue is regulated by potassium. As we get older, our potassium levels naturally drop, which can lead to age-related hearing loss. Foods that are high in potassium include sweet potatoes, bananas, spinach, tomatoes, coconut water, melons, apricots, and oranges.
Loud noises generate pressure and vibrations that result in free radicals that damage the delicate hair cells in the inner ear. Magnesium blocks the free radicals from damaging the inner ear by protecting the hair cells. It also helps expand blood vessels and improve circulation in the ear. Magnesium-rich foods include avocados, dark chocolate, broccoli, bananas, and flaxseed.
For sudden, unexplained (sensorineural) hearing loss, zinc has been shown to help recover and improve hearing. Because of its immune-boosting properties, it can also help prevent ear infections that can play a role in hearing loss. Foods that are high in zinc include peanuts, cashews, almonds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, hemp seeds, and dark chocolate.
Adequate amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet can help prevent or delay age-related hearing loss. You can get Omega-3s from oily fish like salmon and sardines, as well as walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds.
Also known as folic acid, folate is an antioxidant that helps fight off the free radicals that can reduce blood flow to the inner ear. Low levels of folate have been linked to increased hearing loss. Get your folic acid from broccoli, spinach, kale, romaine lettuce, kidney beans, chickpeas, and asparagus.
Among the many benefits of vitamin D is bone health, including that of the bones in your ears. Foods with vitamin D include milk, salmon, mushrooms, and eggs. It’s also helpful to take a vitamin D supplement as well as getting sunlight, which your body converts into vitamin D.
Vitamins A and C are also helpful in blocking the free radicals that can damage the hair cells in the inner ear. They can be found in foods like oranges, carrots, cantaloupe, red and green peppers, sweet potatoes, strawberries, and kiwi. Some people with tinnitus (ringing in the ears) have been helped with vitamin B12 supplementation.
Protect your ears from loud noises like concerts and sporting events that can damage your hearing in as little as 15 minutes. Exercise regularly and don’t smoke, both of which are important for the health of your ears. Besides that, eat the right foods for your ears.