Vitamins and minerals contribute significantly to your overall health, but did you know that some of them benefit your ears specifically? From potassium and magnesium to vitamins C and E, nutrients can play a huge role in hearing health care. Learn which vitamins and supplements will help change your ear health for the better.
Minerals are substances found in water and soil, which plants then absorb. When we consume plant products (or animals that have eaten them), our bodies take in the benefits of these nourishing nutrients.
Studies have shown that some common minerals can help or improve hearing conditions such as age-related hearing loss, ear infections and tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Here’s a closer look at a few of those minerals.
Noise-induced hearing loss is a significant health issue among adults, but researchers have found that magnesium might play a role in protecting the ears from further damage. Loud sounds prompt the production of free radical molecules in our ear, which damage the delicate hair cells of the inner ear. These hair cells are necessary in transmitting the electrical impulses that the brain interprets as sounds, and such damage can result in permanent hearing reduction or loss.
However, magnesium can potentially protect the hair cells. In one study, 300 subjects who were given a magnesium supplement before prolonged exposure to loud noise were significantly less likely to develop noise-induced hearing loss than the control group.
These foods can help you add magnesium to your diet:
Potassium helps our body do a lot of things, such as regulating the fluid in our blood and tissues. Researchers have found that the fluid in the inner ear needs potassium in its crucial process of converting sound into nerve impulses that get sent to the brain. Potassium levels in the inner ear decrease as we age, which can contribute to age-related hearing loss. Therefore, it's important to eat potassium-rich foods to help maintain the delicate environment of the inner ear.
Potassium-rich foods to add to your diet include:
This micronutrient is known for helping activate and produce T-cells (T-lymphocytes)—the body's defender cells specifically designed to recognize and destroy bacteria, viruses and other invaders. While studies have shown mixed results on whether zinc prevents ear infections, this anti-inflammatory mineral can still support other aspects of your hearing health. Research shows zinc supplementation can help recover and improve hearing for those experiencing sudden hearing loss.
Note: Check with your doctor first before adding zinc supplement to your routine, especially if you take antibiotics or diuretics, as zinc can negatively interact with these types of medications.
Support your zinc intake with foods such as:
Vitamins are organic substances found in the plant and animal foods we consume and are necessary for staying healthy. The human body doesn't produce enough vitamins on its own, so you need to take in a variety of vitamin-rich foods and/or vitamin supplements to meet your daily nutrition needs. Wondering which vitamins can help better your hearing or ward off hearing loss? Here's a list of ear-friendly vitamins.
Low levels of folate (its synthetic form, folic acid) are associated with higher incidence of hearing loss. In one study, steady supplementation of folic acid resulted in slower rates of hearing loss—particularly in the frequencies associated with speech.
So, how exactly does folate support your hearing health? Folic acid appears to help the body metabolize homocysteine, an amino acid that can reduce and impair blood flow to the inner ear as well as other parts of the body. Research strongly suggests that proper metabolization of this amino acid plays a significant role in the development and progression of sensorineural hearing loss.
Folates are also an antioxidant that helps fight off free radicals—those pesky little molecules that form when you're exposed to stressors such as loud or excessive noise. Free radical activity can reduce blood flow to the inner ear and damage the delicate sensory cells needed for healthy hearing. Once those cells are destroyed, they cannot grow back.
Try these foods to increase your folate levels:
Vitamin D is important for bone health. A vitamin D deficiency can wreak havoc on bones throughout our body—including the trio of tiny, yet crucial bones in our middle ear. Without vitamin D, these three ear bones can soften and weaken, which can diminish hearing. People of every age need vitamin D, but it's especially important for older adults, who, for environmental, health and metabolic reasons, often retain less vitamin D.
To get more vitamin D, eat foods like:
Studies have shown that a diet rich in magnesium, vitamin C and beta-carotene (which our bodies convert into vitamin A) lowers the risk of hearing loss. How? It appears they can protect against inner ear cell damage caused by free radicals. Antioxidants like vitamins A, C and E halt excessive production of these free radicals, which can damage the delicate cells in our ears. Studies have also shown that supplementing with vitamins A, C and E (plus magnesium) before exposure to loud noise can actually help prevent noise-induced hearing damage.
Each respective vitamin can be found in these foods:
Along with these vitamins and minerals, omega-3 fatty acids can provide an added layer of health benefits. They contain nutrients necessary to fight heart disease and reduce inflammation, both of which can directly affect your hearing. Your ears get a steady supply of blood from the heart which they need to function- hair cells in the inner ear require proper blood flow and will die without it, resulting in hearing loss. Omega-3 fatty acids can support these cells and prevent damage. Since the body can't produce this kind of fat itself, you need to include it in your diet.
Omega-3s are found in foods like:
Many ear health supplements that claim to treat tinnitus, but studies are mixed on whether taking supplements or vitamins for tinnitus can actually make a difference. That said, magnesium has shown potential in relieving tinnitus symptoms' severity. A healthy supply of magnesium keeps the blood vessels relaxed, allowing adequate blood to flow throughout the body, including the inner ear. In another study, men with tinnitus who had a vitamin B12 deficiency experienced significant improvements with their tinnitus after receiving intra-muscular injections of the vitamin. Vitamin B12 is also known to potentially reduce the risk of tinnitus. Deficiencies in B2 (riboflavin) and B3 (niacinamide) can also be associated with tinnitus. Taurine, which is an amino acid that is often found in athletic supplements, can help reduce tinnitus as well.
Although zinc is another nutrient thought to improve symptoms of tinnitus, studies have failed to demonstrate a significant link between zinc supplementation and tinnitus relief.
You can find vitamin B12 in foods such as:
Some people believe that certain vitamins and supplements may be the cause of their tinnitus. However, there is no evidence vitamins can affect tinnitus. However, ototoxic medications are a common cause of tinnitus and hearing loss. Talk to your doctor about your medications and whether they can affect your hearing.
Want to improve hearing and prevent (or delay) hearing loss? Stock your kitchen with foods rich in nutrients that taste great and will keep your ears—and the rest of your body—healthy:
Adding vitamin- and mineral-rich foods to your diet or taking supplements can positively and proactively affect ear health. However, changing your vitamin or mineral intake doesn't replace or take away the importance of regular hearing tests.