I’m in the process of writing an ebook with strategies to help seniors stay independent for as long as possible. I’ve devoted an entire chapter on ways to improve age-related hearing loss. Just how does hearing loss happen? Our inner ear contains over 15,000 sensory hair cells, and over time can become damaged. Decades of noise; a blowdryer, kitchen blender, lawn mower, traffic, airplanes, and music with earbuds all contribute to hearing loss. Two new studies show that people with even mild hearing loss have a greater risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Hearing loss is no joke. Dr. Frank Shallenberger cites two long-term studies at Johns Hopkins University in the October 2015 issue of The Journal of Natural Medicine. The first, a six yearlong study involving over 2,000 seniors, researchers gave a series of hearing and memory tests. At the end of the study, doctors were astounded to find that those with hearing problems were 24% more likely to experience cognitive decline. In the other study, researchers followed 639 people who were mentally sharp and tested their hearing and mental abilities over a 12-year period. Again, the results were alarming: Persons with even minor hearing loss were three times more likely to experience cognitive decline! The researchers speculate that hearing loss leads to social isolation and depression-both of which are risk factors for cognitive decline. They also said that hearing problems may force the brain to focus more on hearing sound, at the expense of memory and thinking. That’s not all. Because most hearing loss occurs in the inner ear, which regulates balance, ignoring the problem increases one’s risk of falling by threefold. Hearing loss also makes driving and walking outdoors less safe because you don’t hear car horns and other traffic noises.
So what do we do? Go live in the middle of a forest? Not very likely. You can buy hearing aids to help, but most folks that I know that have them complain about them, and they cost thousands of dollars. However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Several new studies show that there are nutrients that can actually stop hearing loss and even improve it as you age. Before I tell you which ones, let me preface the information by saying that I receive no financial compensation from any company making these products. The first natural remedy is an amino acid called N-acetyl cysteine (NAC). Recently, as cited by Dr. Shallenberger, government scientists conducted a study on a group of 1000 marines at Camp Pendleton who were undergoing rifle training. 600 got NAC, the other 400 got a placebo. The result: 70% of the marines taking NAC experienced less hearing loss. Hearing loss comes with the job in the military. Those with hearing loss are twice as likely to miss a target and 25% more likely to be killed, so hearing loss means a short career. NAC helps repair the ear damage caused by loud noises. It also converts to glutathione in the body, one our most potent antioxidants. Recommended dose is 500 mg a day, which is what I take.
The second natural remedy is Alpha lipoid acid (ALA) is found in every cell in the body and is both fat and water soluble. It is also unique in that it can cross the blood brain barrier, so it targets free radical damage in the brain, ears, and nervous system. ALA also refuels other antioxidants back to their active states, and increases glutathione levels in the body. I take 300 mg a day.
I have a condition called pulsatile tinnitus, more commonly known as ringing in the ears. It used to be bothersome, but currently it’s not noticeable. Why? I started taking ginkgo bloba. Ginko is a natural vasodilator, which means it improves circulation in the tiny blood vessels in and around the ear. Improved blood flow brings oxygen and other nutrients to the brain and ears, so it makes sense why ginkgo works. There are several studies validating gins effectiveness on buzzing and ringing in the ears. I take 100 mg a day.
In addition, there are also several foods, spices and herbs which help by increasing vasodilation.
Omega-3 fats and vitamin D, so try to eat fish at least twice a week.
Folic acid helps protect nerve tissue in the ears. Folic acid is commonly found in asparagus, beans, spinach, eggs, liver, or nuts.
Magnesium, found in many foods such as artichokes, avocados, broccoli, etc., has been shown to potent against noise-induced hearing loss.
Zinc can increase your inner ear’s resistance to age-related hearing loss. Zinc can be found in beef and lamb, cocoa and dark chocolate, beans, mushrooms, and wheat germ. Remember to keep intake to 25 mg a day.
garlic and onions
rosemary, parsley, ginger, artichokes, barley, oats, nuts, pumpkin seeds, dark, leafy greens
Caution! Avoid all artificial sweeteners as they contain neurotoxins that can lead to dry eyes and an increased risk of glaucoma. Use natural sweeteners such as stevia, xylitol, erythritol, or yacon syrup (yacon is a plant from the Andes mountains that was used by the Incas for its sweetening ability. It does not affect blood sugar levels).
Note: Remember to take time to let your ears relax-find quiet time as much as possible.
Stay well, John R Blilie, M.S.