You know that a complete diet is vital to your overall health. But what if you knew of a specific vitamin that studies show could do double-duty to protect your hearing specifically? Would you want to learn more about it? Would you want to make sure you’re getting enough of it?
There is such a vitamin.
Let’s explore what science knows so far.
How Hearing Works
It all starts with the outer ear. it collects sound waves, which are produced when something makes a sound. If we could see these waves, they would look a lot like the ripples that move out from a rock when you drop it into a pond. These waves radiate out in all directions to be collected by any humans or animals who can interpret those waves as sound.
Waves Hit the Eardrum
When the waves enter the ear, your eardrum vibrates with the waves, transmitting them through your middle ear, refining them along the way. This starts a whole series of events in your inner ear. The cochlea is the part of your inner ear that looks like a snail shell. Inside it, tiny hair cells begin to move.
Waves Become Distinguishable Sounds
These hair cells are like thousands of little translators who can translate vibration into signals that will then be sent to your brain through synapses. Synapses are connectors between nerve cells that transfer messages from nerve to nerve and eventually to the brain.
The brain is then able to interpret the meaning of these signals. What started as a series of waves is now understood by the brain to be a word, a car sound, music or anything else we might hear.
How Hearing Becomes Damaged
When you expose the cochlea to loud noises, you force those synapses responsible for communicating with the brain to work overtime. Like anyone who works too much overtime, they get exhausted and start to deteriorate.
A Promising Study Shows Us How to Protect Our Hearing
Of course, reducing repeated exposure to loud noises is key to protecting your hearing. But researchers are also interested in learning how a chemical called nicotinamide riboside (NR) may help reduce hearing loss. Your body converts NR into Vitamin B3 (niacin) so that it can be used.
The study showed that giving NR to mice either before or after exposure to a loud sound could prevent damage to these synapses. NR appears to protect the synapses from short-term damage. You experience this when you have trouble hearing right after exposure to a loud noise like a concert on interstate traffic. It also appears to protect the hearing long term.
Helping Your Body Heal Itself
Researchers found that the NR helped increase a naturally-produced protein called SIRT3. This is an essential part of your bodies cellular repair system. SIRT3 declines as we age, but by boosting it with NR, scientists were able to improve the way to cells protect and repair themselves.
More studies are needed to confirm how this may help humans who are concerned about hearing loss, but this may open up a whole new treatment option for people with early stages of hearing loss. In the meantime, make sure you’re getting your B3. It’s found in meat, eggs, fish, beans, and cereals. Eat well to protect your hearing!