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A plate of healthy foods that can prevent or reduce hearing loss..

Does what eat count when it comes to protecting your hearing? One thing doctors know for sure is that nutrition is critical for just about everything to do with health including your hearing. The truth is the most effective way to safeguard your hearing is to be conscious of noise hazards like the headphones you wear to listen to music or loud environmental sounds you can’t control like a jackhammer or traffic.

If you already protect your ears from loud noises then it’s time to shift your focus to other proactive lifestyle choices like diet and exercise. What foods do you want on your plate for better hearing health?

Get Your Omega On

Omega-3 fatty acids are a winning choice for just about every system including hearing. Researchers from the University of Sydney published a 2010 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that states eating two helpings of oily fish — a common source of omega-3 fatty acids — each week might lower your risk of age-related hearing loss by as much as 42 percent.

There are plenty of good reasons to want this important fatty acid in your diet, though. It’s been connected to the reduction of blood triglycerides, reducing the risk of dementia and better heart health. Now, we can add hearing to the list too.

Fish is the best source of this critical element but not all fish count. Look for wild salmon, tuna or sardines if you want more omega-3 fatty acid.

Folate

Folate is a type of folic acid, one that is often given to women expecting a baby to help prevent neural tube defects during gestation. Folic acid is also listed on the World Health Association’s List of Essential Medicines. At least one study indicates that taking folate will reduce the risk of age-related hearing loss by as much as 35 percent.

The recommended daily intake of folate is 400 micrograms, and the food is always the best source. You’ll find folate in those green leafy vegetables, the dark ones, like spinach or kale, along with beans and in black-eyed peas.

Potassium

Potassium plays an important role in the balancing of specific metabolic processes such as fluid levels and that makes it critical for good hearing, too. The inner ear is where you’ll find the cochlea, a bony labyrinth that is filled with fluid. As sound enters your ear, the fluid vibrates. Those vibrations are what move the hair cells so they send electrical messages the brain can translate into sound.

Clearly, having the right balance of fluid in the inner ear is necessary for effective hearing. In fact, the current theory about conditions that affect what you hear like Meniere’s disease relates directly to this fluid balance. A change in fluid levels might also be a factor in the age-related hearing loss, so add some potatoes, spinach, bananas or yogurt to your daily diet to ensure you get the potassium you need.

Zinc

Zinc is another one of those minerals that make a difference when it comes to your health, especially in the fight against infection. How much zinc you get matters, though. Too much is has negative consequences. The recommended dosage for zinc is around 11 mg per day for adults.

Just enough zinc each day will help reduce the risk of the ear infections. They can interfere with your hearing and may damage the delicate mechanisms of the ear. Zinc also improves wound healing, including the ones inside the ear canal after an infection.

There is some indication that zinc intake helps those with tinnitus, too. Tinnitus is the ringing that some people hear when there is a change in their hearing. Not everyone hears ringing, though. Some individuals with tinnitus complain of wind blowing or clicking noises in their ears. More evidence is needed to prove that zinc is effective in the treatment of tinnitus, however, but it can’t hurt.

Foods that offer plenty of zinc include beef, nuts, and beans. You can enjoy the occasional sweet treat and get your zinc, too, so get some dark chocolate next time you shop.

Good lifestyle choices like eating a balanced diet and doing plenty of exercises are also the right way to lower the risk of chronic illnesses like high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. Any of those problems will increase your odds of age-related hearing loss. Add the direct benefit eating certain foods has on ear health, why wouldn’t you fuss about what you put on your plate?

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