Healthy Hearing Tips for the New Year
Another January is here, and chances are you’ve made a few resolutions. And if you’re like more than 50% of the population, health-related resolutions top your list. As hearing care professionals, we’re obviously concerned with your hearing health, but guess what? Implementing healthy habits will do more than you might think, because the basics also help protect and preserve your hearing. Here are five pieces of sound advice.
1. Keep moving
Did you know that cardiovascular exercise – even gentle activity – is good for your ears? When your blood gets pumping, it promotes better circulation throughout your whole body…right up to your ears and your brain.
2. Keep calm
Too much stress puts undue pressure on your nervous system. This puts your body in “fight or flight” mode, which can lead to a whole host of physical problems – including tinnitus and hearing loss. Starting a daily relaxation exercise (like yoga, meditation, or even a short, casual walk) can reduce stress and protect your hearing health at the same time.
3. Keep loud noises at bay
Most of the noises that surround us every day are at safe levels and don’t damage our hearing. But loud noises – those above about 85 decibels – can cause permanent damage. This includes sounds you would expect like sirens and firecrackers, but it also includes listening to music at max volume. Avoiding loud noises should be avoided when possible, and hearing protection plugs and/or earmuffs should be worn when you do need to be exposed.
4. Keep your diet balanced with vitamin-rich foods
Taking your vitamins is good for your hearing, and there’s no better way to get them than in the foods you eat.
Folic acid / folate – Several studies have shown that folate (vitamin B9) may reduce incidents of tinnitus, and even slow age-related hearing loss. You can get more of them in your diet by eating leafy greens, citrus fruits, whole grains and fortified cereals.
Zinc – You’ve probably heard that zinc has anti-viral properties, and can help shorten a cold or flu if taken at the onset. Because of this ability to help boost the body’s immune system, zinc can also be effective in reducing tinnitus. Zinc is found naturally in beef, lentils, shellfish, nuts… even dark chocolate!
Potassium – The fluid in your inner ears needs a potassium-rich blood flow, so adding potassium to your diet can actually can help your brain effectively translate the sounds you hear. High-potassium foods include bananas, spinach, potatoes and tomatoes.
Magnesium – Just as potassium helps the blood flow to your inner ears, magnesium helps maintain the proper oxygen supply. And although studies are still underway, magnesium seems to have a therapeutic effect on noise-induced hearing loss. Magnesium is found many foods, including dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds, fish, avocados and low-fat dairy.
What causes hearing loss? Hearing loss can be due to several factors such as the aging process, exposure to loud noise, medications, infections, head or ear trauma, congenital (birth) or genetic factors, diseases, as well as a number of other causes. Recent data shows that about 20 percent of adults in the United States (48 million) report some degree of hearing loss. Hearing loss often occurs gradually throughout a lifetime.
5. Keep an eye on your ears
One of the best things you can do for your hearing is to be proactive, and get it checked. Untreated hearing loss certainly degrades quality of life, and it has also been linked to other serious health concerns such as depression, dementia, and heart disease.
The good news is, using hearing aids is like exercise for your ears, nerves and brain. But time is of the essence, because you can lose your window of opportunity if you don’t use it. Untreated hearing loss means a lack of stimulation to the auditory system, which may make it more difficult to adapt and benefit from hearing aids in the future.