Approximately 76% of U.S. adults take dietary supplements regularly. Vitamin C is good for the immune system, vitamin A improves your vision, and vitamin D supports healthy bones. But are there such things as hearing supplements?
Supplements for hearing loss are a controversial issue. Some studies point towards potential benefits, whereas others offer contradictory results. At EarPros, we explore the issue of supplements for ear health and what you need to know about preserving your hearing.
Can Vitamins Prevent Hearing Loss?
The issue of vitamins for ear health has been hotly contested in recent years. Dr. Sharon Curhan, MD, from Harvard Medical School in Boston, said that while healthy diets do lower the risk of hearing loss, no specific nutrients will prevent hearing loss.
Certain studies performed on animals have demonstrated positive results but have subsequently failed to translate to human studies. Instead, researchers cautiously recommend a specific combination of vitamins.
What the Science Says
Researchers from the University of Michigan found that vitamins A, C, E, and the mineral magnesium can prevent hearing loss caused by loud noises. These supplements combat the formation of free radicals, which can destroy the inner ear cells and restrict blood flow. Additionally, folic acid is recommended for age-related hearing loss, according to a study from the University of Sydney.
While the science is at an extremely early stage, the fact is taking more vitamins will benefit your health, regardless of their impact on potential hearing loss.
So, while early studies have shown potential, there’s currently no evidence that vitamins reverse already damaged hearing.
Vitamins and Supplements for Ear Health
There are certain vitamins for hearing loss that, taken individually, may be preventative. On the other hand, as discussed by the researchers from the University of Michigan, certain vitamins are best taken in combination.
Let’s examine some of the main hearing supplements you should incorporate into your diet.
- Vitamins A, C, and E
Together, vitamins A, C, and E prevent the formation of dangerous free radicals, which cause damage to the inner ear. Studies have shown that a diet high in these vitamins, along with magnesium, has the potential to limit potential hearing loss.
It makes sense because vitamins are also known to be extremely powerful antioxidants. Ensuring your body has an adequate supply of antioxidants is crucial to good health in every regard. Early research demonstrates that this combination of vitamins is best for protecting your hearing against noise-induced hearing loss.
- Vitamin D
Vitamin D has always been recommended for bone health, but it is also one of the best ear vitamins for protecting your hearing. Your middle ear is filled with tiny bones that enable you to hear. When these three ear bones weaken, hearing loss becomes more likely.
While vitamins for bone health have always been important, older adults should pay special attention to their vitamin D intake. Due to health, metabolic, and environmental reasons, older adults are statistically more likely to have less vitamin D in their systems.
- Folic Acid
Folate, or folic acid as it’s known in its synthetic form, has been shown in studies to have a strong link with slowing the rate of hearing loss.
Folic acid is considered to be one of the vitamins for hearing improvement because of its impact on homocysteine. Homocysteine is an amino acid that may impair blood flow to areas of the body, including the inner ear. Folic acid actively metabolizes homocysteine, which can reduce the onset of sensorineural hearing loss.
Plus, folic acid is effective at neutralizing free radicals, thus preserving the delicate cells of the inner ear for longer.
Magnesium is a mineral recommended for the prevention of noise-induced hearing loss. Evidence shows that magnesium plays a role in combatting dangerous free radicals, which are commonly generated when a person is exposed to loud noises.
On a side note, magnesium is also considered to be one of the best supplements for tinnitus. With more than 50 million Americans suffering from some degree of tinnitus, magnesium may be the key to lessening severe symptoms of the condition by:
Potassium has always been a vital mineral for health because it helps to regulate fluid levels in the body’s blood and tissues. As scientists learn more about the function of the ear, they have discovered that potassium plays a role in converting sound into nerve impulses.
These nerve impulses are what allows your brain to process sound. As humans get older, these potassium levels decline, which is a potential reason why age-related hearing loss occurs.
Loading up on this mineral now could help you maintain this balance of potassium within the inner ear and protect your hearing as you get older.
Zinc is a micronutrient renowned for its ability to support and bolster the immune system while reducing your chances of catching a cold. It does this by activating and producing T-cells, which are white blood cells, the body’s primary defenders.
Due to zinc’s role in destroying bacteria and viruses, this mineral could lessen the chances of contracting an ear infection, which is one of the leading causes of hearing loss. So, anything you can do to bolster your immune system could reduce the chances of experiencing hearing problems.
Finally, if you do choose to use zinc as one of your regular hearing supplements, speak to your doctor first. Zinc is known to have negative effects in people who already take diuretics and antibiotics.
- Vitamin B12
If you suffer from tinnitus, B12 is another of the vitamins for ears that could lessen the severity of your symptoms. Vitamin B12, otherwise known as cobalamin, is a vitamin your body needs to produce red blood cells and synthesize DNA. It also supports the proper functioning of nerve cells. Those who are deficient in this vitamin often suffer from heart disease, fatigue, and amnesia.
So how Does this Vitamin Benefit Tinnitus?
In short, we don’t know. Scientists have only carried out pilot studies using B12 supplementation for tinnitus sufferers. While these studies did show an improvement in symptoms, the exact reason isn’t yet known.
However, its role in supporting the healthy function of nerve cells could be one reason why it reduces tinnitus.
On a side note, this is the only supplement on this list that the body does not naturally produce. You can get it from poultry, dairy, and fish. Alternatively, high-quality supplementation is an acceptable replacement.
Should I Use Hearing Supplements to Protect My Hearing?
Using vitamins for hearing loss is a relatively new field of study. While there are tentative links, audiologists are unable to recommend supplementation as a cure for hearing loss.
On the other hand, since all these ear health vitamins and minerals are beneficial for the body in general, there’s no harm in incorporating supplementation into your diet.
If you already take any prescription medications, make sure you speak to your healthcare provider before consuming any supplements.
Top Tips to Protect Your Hearing
Ear vitamins are only part of the picture of taking preventative steps against different forms of hearing loss.
You can also take other steps to preserve your hearing, such as:
- Use Earplugs – Put in earplugs whenever you are exposed to loud sounds, such as at a dance or a concert. Modern earplugs are discrete and easy to wear on the go.
- Wear Protective Gear – If you work in an environment where loud sounds are the norm, speak to your employer about protective gear. Depending on where you live, your employer may be required to issue ear defenders and other protective equipment.
- Turn the Volume Down – Most people listen to music at levels that are much too high. Anything above 85 dB has the potential to cause hearing loss. Consider sound-limiting headphones/earphones and get used to quieter sounds.
- Give Your Ears a Break – Hearing damage typically occurs due to prolonged exposure to loud sounds. Even 10-15 minutes in a quieter place can make a world of difference. Try going outside every hour or two.
- Stop Putting Things in Your Ears – Anything smaller than your elbow does not belong inside your ear canal. Avoid the use of implements like cotton swabs and paperclips to remove earwax. Your body does this naturally.
- Take Medications with Care – Medications are some of the leading causes of hearing damage. Make sure you take medications as directed. Hearing loss often occurs when people take too much.
- Adopt Regular Exercise – Moving and exercising regularly helps to improve blood flow to all areas of the body. The vitamins and nutrients your ear cells need are delivered via the blood. Studies have shown that those with sedentary lifestyles are more likely to suffer from hearing loss.
- Keep Your Ears Dry – Water often gets lodged in the ears, which can lead to infections. Moisture is a breeding ground for harmful bacteria that could result in infection-induced hearing loss.
Dealing with hearing loss can be difficult, but you can take preventative steps to limit any further damage. Be mindful of when loud is too loud and give your ears a rest from prolonged sound exposure.
Finally, if you have already sustained a noticeable change in your hearing, it’s important to consult an audiologist. While hearing supplements may slow down hearing loss, there’s nothing that can reverse it.
Your audiologist may recommend oticon hearing aids to help restore your hearing levels. While hearing aids represent a significant investment, they can transform the lives of the hearing impaired.
Vitamins for hearing are a contested issue. As more in-depth studies are performed, hearing experts will learn more about the role of supplementation on hearing loss in the coming years.
What is certain is that investing in supplementation will not lead to any ill effects. If you’re concerned about your hearing, it’s time to take action with the help of EarPros.
We can help you get the support you need for your hearing with a licensed, qualified audiologist. To book your free hearing test, contact EarPros and start your journey to better hearing.