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

Dr Kara Hoffman graduated from UCT in 2004, thereafter she completed her year of community service in Durban. In 2010 she completed her Masters Degree in Paediatric Aural Rehabilitation from UKZN. In 2016, she became a Doctor of Audiology through the University of Arizona (ATSU). Dr Hoffman and her partner Lauren Thompson opened a fully diagnostic audiology practice called Thompson & Hoffman Audiology Inc. In 2011 with world-class technology and equipment to be able to offer the broad public all hearing-related services including hearing testing for adults and babies, vestibular (balance) assessments and rehabilitation, industrial audiology, hearing devices, central auditory processing assessments for school-aged children, school screening, neonatal hearing screening programmes at Alberlito and Parklands Hospital, cochlear implants and other implantable devices, medicolegal assessments and advanced electroacoustic assessments of hearing. Thompson and Hoffman Audiology Inc. are based at Alberlito Hospital in Ballito, St Augustines Hospital in Durban and at 345 Essenwood Road, Musgrave. The practices are all wheelchair friendly. There are three audiologists that practice from Thompson & Hoffman – including Dr Kara Hoffman, Lauren Thompson & Minette Lister. The practice boasts professional, highly qualified, and extensive diagnostic services where all your hearing healthcare needs can be met. The additional licensing in vestibular assessment and rehabilitation, paediatric rehabilitation and cochlear implantation places this practice in one of the top specialist audiological positions in South Africa, with a wealth of experience in all clinical areas of audiology and is a very well respected and sought-after practice.

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