Hearing management

18 May 2018

4 foods that can improve your hearing

Vitamins are great for your general health and wellbeing, but some are especially good at helping to maintain the quality of your hearing.

Minerals and vitamins have always played a critical role in our health and the effective functioning of our body. We get minerals by eating plants that absorb them from the earth and by eating meat from animals that graze on plants. An example is calcium for strong teeth and bones.

But can food actually influence your hearing? According to researchers the answer is yes. 

1. Potassium

Potassium regulates the amount of fluid in your body tissues and blood. This is important to hearing health as there is fluid in the inner ear. The inner ear is the part of the ear that translates the noise we hear around us into impulses that our brain interprets as sound. The inner ear is dependent on potassium and it is therefore imperative to have a potassium-rich diet. 

As we become older, those levels unfortunately drop which could be one of the causes of presbycusis, the most common type of sensorineural hearing loss caused by the natural ageing of the auditory system.

Potassium-rich foods include bananas, avocados, potatoes, spinach, melons, milk, oranges, apricots, tomatoes, lima beans and yoghurt. 

2. Folic acid 

Studies show that folic acid is critical for your body’s ability to generate new cell growth. Adults with low levels of folic acid in their blood are more likely to develop presbycusis. Research says folic acid supplements may slow down hearing loss. The body uses folic acid to metabolise homocysteine, an inflammatory compound that reduces circulation. Good circulation is important for keeping the hair cells of the inner ear healthy and working properly.

Folate-rich foods include meats, asparagus, broccoli and spinach.

3. Zinc

Zinc boosts your body's immune system and is also responsible for cell growth and healing wounds. This means it can be helpful in warding off germs that cause ear infections.

Foods rich in zinc include beef, pork and dark-meat chicken, cashews, almonds, peanuts, beans, split peas, lentils, oysters, dark chocolate, oats, popped quinoa, raisins, dried cranberries and coconut flakes.

4. Magnesium 

Research conducted at the University of Michigan Kresge Hearing Research Institute has shown that people treated with magnesium were protected from noise-related hearing loss. Researchers believe the reason for this is magnesium's ability to fight the effects of free radicals generated by loud noise, acting as a barrier that protects the hair cells in the inner ear. Lack of adequate magnesium in the inner ear causes the blood vessels to shrink as a result of a lack of oxygen. 

Foods rich in magnesium include fruits and vegetables, such as bananas, artichokes, potatoes, spinach, tomatoes and broccoli. 

Image credit: iStock


Ask the Expert

Hearing Expert

Minette Lister graduated with a Bachelor of Communication Pathology (Audiology) from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Westville in 2015. Thereafter, she completed her compulsory year of community service at Phoenix Assessment and Therapy Centre in Durban. In 2017, Minette started working for Thompson and Hoffman Audiology Inc. She is passionate about working with children and adults to diagnose and manage hearing loss using state of the art technology. Minette offers hearing screening programmes for newborn and high-risk babies, as well as school-aged children, in order to decrease the incidence of late or unidentified hearing loss.

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