When you’re a child, you don’t think about how important food is. You just eat what you like, and you eat as much of it as you can. When you were a kid you probably thought that you’d eat ice cream for dinner every night if you could. But then you become an adult, and you learn that your dietary choices actually have consequences. And there goes that ice cream for dinner idea.
That poor nutrition can lead to a variety of health-related issues is not terribly surprising. But new research found one especially unexpected side effect of poor nutrition: hearing loss.
How Nutrition Affects Your Hearing
We’re used to attributing the causes of hearing loss to genetic factors or noise-specific environments. If you spend every day working in a loud machine shop and don’t protect your hearing, there’s a certain amount of intuitive cause-and-effect to that interaction–so we never question it.
The cause-and-effect relationship between nutrition and hearing sensitivity doesn’t seem quite as intuitive. That’s why several groups over the last few years have begun researching any possible link between hearing loss and poor nutrition. After all, we know that poor nutrition can take a serious physical toll on the body–it makes sense to see if the ears might be impacted as well.
Researchers found that there are a number of ways poor nutrition can impact your hearing:
- Lack of proper nutrition in utero can undermine the development of the inner ear, which could lead to hearing problems for the child once born.
- Lack of iron has also been associated with hearing loss in certain groups.
- Higher rates of hearing loss have been observed in populations that have higher intakes of fat and cholesterol.
- Diets high in salt raise your blood pressure, and hypertension has been linked to hearing loss.
There’s also bound to be non-direct causes and correlations between hearing loss and nutrition. For example, those who are more financially secure also tend to have greater access to sound nutrition. If you’re financially secure, you may also have greater access to hearing and health professionals, which can improve their hearing in the long run. It’s not as though greater wealth leads to better hearing directly–but the correlational relationships mean those with less wealth are perhaps more at risk for the development of hearing loss.
What Nutrition Is Good For You?
Good nutrition is something you should strive for in general. It’s important to your overall health.
So Terry has a nice job, but he also has to make sure his paycheck stretches as far as it can–he has a lot of groceries to buy and a strict budget. At his local supermarket, produce is expensive, so he purchases a lot of processed foods–the kind that maybe aren’t all that great for you (you know, heavy on the sodium, light on the vitamins).
But Terry’s looking to make a change. He wants to make sure his ears stay healthy. Here’s what Terry can do:
- Fresh fruit can be relatively expensive, but vitamin-rich vegetables tend to be a bit more affordable. Working veggies into your diet can be a huge nutritional boon.
- Make lunches and dinner at home. When you create food from scratch (or almost from scratch), you have a lot more control over what goes into every meal. You can control the amounts of salt and fat, especially.
- Pay more attention to juices. A lot of what we drink in the United States is… well, not that great for us. Many juices are laced with sugars and devoid of nutritional merit. Avoid (most) juice and especially avoid soda. Drink something a little healthier instead.
- Make sustainable changes. The healthiest eating habits in the world are only good so long as you practice them. If you really want to improve the nutritional state of your diet, you need to make changes that you can work into your every day.
There’s no getting around the fact that budget (and time) can be major roadblocks to good nutrition. But now you have some added incentive: the better you eat, the more insulated you could be from added risks to your hearing.