You know why you’re supposed to eat vegetables, right? Because they’re good for you (okay, some people do find vegetables delicious, and that’s fine… no one’s judging anyone here). Unfortunately for those of us who gag at the sight of carrots, there’s a fair amount of evidence that a well balanced, nutritious eating lifestyle can have significant health benefits.
So, yeah, we get it. Eating healthy is good for you and you should totally do it. But can a healthy diet really stave off something like hearing loss?
Well… maybe. Sort of. At least, some of the research suggests this can happen in mice. It’s not the whole story, of course. Even if you get all the nutrients in the world through some kind of super supplement (which actually, does not sound all that healthy), the fact of the matter is that hearing loss is caused by a wide variety of factors–some of which we have a good handle on and some of which we’re still discovering. Nutrition can only ever do so much.
How Might Nutritional Supplements Help?
Simply put, nutrition supplements are a way of getting vitamins and minerals without needing to eat vegetables. Okay, okay–it’s a little more complex than that. For plenty of people, there are reasons to take supplements that have nothing to do with their taste buds. You might take supplements because:
- Your body has a hard time absorbing a certain vitamin or mineral and you need a concentrated dose.
- Your normal diet lacks a certain vitamin or mineral and you need a little bit extra.
- Your doctor recommended you take a little bit extra or a given vitamin or mineral.
- You have specific symptoms that would benefit from treatment.
- Maybe you’re training for a specific event (such as a marathon… which I’m told by reputable sources that some people do actually enjoy).
You get the idea. There are plenty of reasons you might take a supplement–sometimes as a preventative measure and sometimes as a treatment. So how could a nutrition supplement help to prevent hearing loss?
Well, the only reason you’re able to hear at all is that there are tiny hairs inside your ear that can sense vibrations in the air. These hairs then send signals to your brain and your brain makes sense of it all (I’m simplifying a lot, but, look, this is also not an anatomy class). The idea is that a healthy dose of certain vitamins and minerals can make those hairs more resistant to damage.
So Do Nutritional Supplements Help Prevent Hearing Loss?
The jury is out on this for a couple of really good reasons:
- First, studies of this nature are very rarely conclusive. Correlation is not causation. It’s difficult to know whether nutrition supplements worked on their own or whether a healthy overall diet is what actually helps. Until causation is known, advice is hard to give. (The FDA is not usually impressed by correlation.)
- Second, most of these studies are performed in mice. And you may have noticed that mice and humans–ears included–are very different. What happens in a mouse ear does not necessarily translate to a human ear.
That said, there are significant benefits to your overall health when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Eating well and exercising regularly might help prevent hearing loss, not because of some magic supplement but because it keeps your blood pressure low.
So How Can I Prevent Hearing Loss?
Protect your ears if you’re exposed to loud noises. Earplugs and earmuffs are the way to go (no magic pills needed). Because once those tiny hairs are gone, they’re gone.
Also, take care of your overall health–make sure your blood pressure is normal, if you have diabetes it is under control, and get your hearing checked regularly.
If you’ve already noticed the effects of hearing loss, invest in a pair of hearing aids. Hearing aids won’t prevent your hearing from getting worse, but they will help you hear things more clearly. Studies also show that wearing hearing aids can help counter cognitive decline associated with hearing loss.
All that said, eat your vegetables anyway. They are good for you.