Hearing Loss and Nutrition – The “Silent” Epidemic – An Interview with Dr. Keith P. West, Jr. & Susan D. Emmett, MD, MPH, Johns Hopkins University

The “Silent” Hearing Loss Epidemic and the Important Role of Nutrition (watch Kirk’s YouTube overview of interview) 1.2 billion people world-wide have hearing loss while 16% of the adult U.S.population suffers from hearing loss. 75% of the elderly have hearing impairment. The real number of those with hearing deficits affecting quality of life is much greater because the above figures exclude those with mild hearing impairment.

Research on nutrition in hearing loss is in its early stages, especially with regards to actual therapeutic interventions with diet and specific nutrients.

Key points with regards to hearing loss in developing countries centers around nutrition that helps prevent infections (vitamin A & zinc) and that enhances normal growth and metabolism in-and-around the inner ear, such as with the mineral iodine.

In developed countries, such as the United States, where there is excess calories with micronutrient deficiencies, the role of inflammation and oxidative balance plays a significant role in hearing loss.

Key nutrients that might affect hearing loss in developed countries include; vitamins A, C and E, selenium and zinc.

There is a correlation between bone loss and hearing loss in menopausal women, though the exact mechanisms are not understood.

Environmental “toxins,” such as how modern society experiences noise (i.e. headphones), and physical elements such as heavy metals, drugs, chemicals and environmental toxins can affect the delicate biochemistry and physiology of hearing.

While there is much to be learned about what specific diet and nutritional factors that can be used as interventions to prevent or treat hearing loss, IT CAN BE SAID WITH SOME CONFIDENCE THAT THE SAME DIETARY AND LIFESTYLE PRACTICES THAT PREVENT AND/OR REVERSE CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE, DIABETES AND OBESITY WILL ALSO PROBABLY PREVENT, SLOW OR POSSIBLY REVERSE (SOME CASES) HEARING LOSS. These principles include eating a whole food, nutrient-dense, unprocessed diet with high quantities of antioxidant and phytochemical rich fruits and vegetables, and a dietary pattern that significantly reduces high fat and sugar-laden empty calorie, processed foods. The importance of implementing these preventive practices in pregnancy and early childhood cannot be over-emphasized to prevent long-term developmental disabilities. Likewise, addressing the issues of hearing loss in the elderly can reduce the risk to cognitive decline (dementia) and to loss of independent living.

“Nutrition and hearing loss: a neglected cause and global health burden.”
Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Nov;102(5):987-8. 51117

Dr. Keith P. West, Jr. Center for Human Nutrition, Department of International
Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD  kwest1@jhu.edu

Susan D. Emmett, MD, MPH, Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Johns Hopkins Medical School, Baltimore, MD  semmett2@jhmi.edu   

Be and Stay Well,

Kirk

You may call Kirk Hamilton PA-C Monday thru Friday 8-9 a.m. PST at 916-489-4400 for brief medical questions at Health Associates Medical Group.

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