Our ears are true marvels of nature. They help us position ourselves in our environment and notice activity around us, even aiding us in determining where that activity is coming from. They are so sensitive to the sounds that others make, they promoted the development of spoken languages that allow us to communicate nearly anything we wish.
If you’ve been fortunate to experience “normal” hearing throughout much of your life, the onset of hearing loss can be troubling. It tends to creep in so slowly that you likely won’t notice for a while. For this reason, it’s best to get your hearing tested at regular intervals, whether you are noticing hearing loss or not. If it’s determined that you do have some hearing loss, even if it’s not at the point that you require hearing aids or other intervention, it can help point your way to lifestyle and dietary changes that could prevent or slow further hearing loss.
A recent study populated by a group of middle-aged white women from all over the United States demonstrated that adhering to diets that discourage inflammation in the body, such as DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stopping Hypertension) or AMED (Alternate Mediterranean Diet), have drastic effects on preventing hearing loss. An anti-inflammatory diet reduces the level of free radicals in the inner ear, promoting better blood flow and thus an extended lifespan for the cilia (tiny, hair-like cells) inside the cochlea, where mechanical sound is transduced (converted) to electrical energy.
The study, conducted by the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, measured hearing ability at regular intervals over the course of four years. Most of the women in the study would have been aged 55-60 during this time period, and researchers were surprised to see how much hearing loss some of them experienced over the course of the study. This age group is usually not given a hearing test as part of a normal health check-up, but the study suggests that hearing tests are very important through this time period. The women in the study were found to demonstrate hearing loss on a hearing test before they noticed it themselves, and since the anti-inflammatory diet prevented hearing loss so strongly in a portion of the participants, the implication is that dietary advice could be given to patients at the earliest signs of hearing loss that would allow them to prevent significant further loss.
It’s also worth noting that age-related hearing loss begins when a person is in their 40s. So even if hearing tests are not yet part of the automatically-suggested health check-ups we undergo in that age group, if we hope to catch our hearing loss as early as possible we should really start getting hearing tests, annually, in our 40s.
MORE THAN YOUR EARS
The anti-inflammatory diet has shown that it has positive effects throughout a person’s body, not just the ears. But hopefully some people might see that, even if they are content to feel generally unhealthy as long as they can enjoy conversation or, say, music, the anti-inflammatory diet is important for those activities as well. More and more research indicates that maintaining our hearing ability as we age is crucial to preventing a host of negative health outcomes. The more research we see, the more it seems that an anti-inflammatory diet and protecting our ears is really a win-win as we get older.
SIGNS THAT YOU NEED A HEARING TEST
While, as noted above, a hearing test is really something you should be getting before you notice problematic hearing loss, you should definitely get a hearing test if you suspect hearing loss is affecting your life.
Most people are actually not the first to notice that they have hearing loss: it is usually a friend or loved one who points it out to them. Unlike vision, where you can tell when things are blurry and you need assistance, hearing loss is harder to pinpoint because it shows up as an absence of sound, not as a distortion of it.
If someone in your life has told you that you might have hearing loss, it’s best to take them at least seriously enough to get a hearing test! Contact us today to schedule an appointment.