Healthy diets may significantly reduce the risk of hearing loss, according to a new study (J Nutr. 2018 May 11. doi: 10.1093/jn/nxy058. [Epub ahead of print]). "We observed that those following an overall healthy diet had a low risk of moderate or worse hearing loss" said Sharon Curhan, MD, the study's first author and an epidemiologist in the Channing Division of Network Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH).
Researchers at BWH monitored the diets of 81,818 women, and calculated their adherence to the Alternative Mediterranean diet (AMED), the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), and the Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010 (AHEI-2010).
Of the three diets evaluated in the study, the AMED and DASH dietary patterns were the ones most correlated with a decrease in hearing loss risk, with an approximately 30 percent lower risk of moderate or worse hearing loss for those women who adhered to them closest.
The AMED diet contains extra virgin olive oil, grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts, fish, and a moderate amount of alcohol. The DASH diet features fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy, with reduced sodium. In this context, Curhan observed, "Eating well contributes to overall good health, and it may also be helpful in reducing the risk of hearing loss."
In examining a subset of women with detailed hearing-related information, the study suggests that the gains from eating healthy may be greater than a 30 percent reduction in risk and that the benefits could also apply to the AHEI-2010 diet. The HEI-2010 diet shares aspects of both the AMED and DASH diets, with emphasis placed on consuming more fruits, vegetables, and grains, and decreasing intake of sodium and refined grains.
Around 48 million Americans are affected by hearing loss and some previous studies have shown a cautious link between nutrition and risk, and this study addresses that gap. It is still unknown whch specific foods or nutrients of the tested diets are most effective in reducing the risk of hearing loss. The researchers note that further studies are needed.