One of the most poignant true-life stories may have given modern scientists and doctors the real reason behind hearing loss. This story is about a man who was very good at what he did. In fact, he was arguably the best in his chosen field. There was only one problem – when people applauded his work, he could not hear the applause.
By now, you might have figured out who I’m talking about – Ludwig Van Beethoven. The great 18th-century musician directed one violin concerto, one opera, five piano concertos, nine symphonies, 17 string concertos, and 32 piano sonatas in his short life.
Beethoven started losing his hearing when he was around 28-years-old. He had mild fluctuating deafness along with tinnitus (ringing in the ears). In the beginning, he hid his deafness (like we all do). But as time progressed, it became worse and more impossible to hide. In a letter to his close friend, he wrote, “My hearing (has) grown steadily worse for three years… My ears whistle and buzz continually, day and night.” By the time he was 45, Beethoven had become stone deaf.
The reason for his deafness was highly researched and debated. Doctors tried to connect every single ailment he had – asthma, infection, tuberculosis, otosclerosis, his gout, nerve deafness, even a traumatic fall – to his deafness, but they were all ruled out for lack of supporting evidence.
But when he died, a post-mortem revealed two significant findings: Cirrhosis of his liver and atherosclerosis of his auditory arteries.
The Mystery of Hearing Loss Solved?
This leads us to conclude that a lack of blood supply to the ear could have caused his deafness, and also the fact that whatever blood was reaching his ear was laden with toxins (as his liver was damaged).
Now, can a lack of healthy blood cause hearing loss? The answer is yes. And can toxins in the blood cause hearing loss? The answer is also yes.
In fact, more and more research on hearing loss is confirming that the main causes of hearing loss are lack of proper nutrition and an increase in free radical damage (caused by toxins).
But while these are the main reasons, there could be other reasons too, and I’ll discuss them briefly before I tell you how you can help boost circulation to your ears through nutrition.
Causes of Hearing Loss and What You Can Do
Deafness Caused by Loud Noises
People think that only noises that are loud enough to cause earache can harm the ears. This is not true. Vibrations caused by loud sounds can damage the sensitive hairs in your inner ear.
As a rule of thumb, noises loud enough to make you shout to be heard are potentially harmful. So, wear personal hearing protection such as earplugs and earmuffs when exposed to loud noises (lawnmowers, power tools). And yes, turn down the volume of your stereo.
Deafness Caused by Toxins
Your ears can be damaged because of toxins circulating in the blood. The cause of this could be liver damage or overuse of drugs and exposure to industrial chemicals like certain solvents. Though this kind of hearing loss could be temporary, it would be wise to take some precautions.
If you notice any noises in the ear (tinnitus) while taking a course of drugs, immediately report it to your physician. If your line of work involves chemicals, find out about ways that can help you limit the exposure.
Hearing Loss Caused by Trauma
An injury leading to a perforated eardrum or other head injuries can also cause hearing loss. The skull bones protect the middle and inner ears, and any kind of impact or even severe pressure to these bones can cause hearing loss.
Hearing loss following head injuries can be immediate or can happen as a delayed reaction. So, a history of previous head injury cannot be ruled out. To avoid hearing damage through injury, wear a helmet while bicycling and playing contact sports, wear a seat belt when traveling by car, and take care when you go into high-pressure situations like scuba diving.
Hearing Loss Caused by Infections
Repeated ear infections (otitis media) can damage the eardrum and the surrounding hearing cells. Diseases like mumps, measles, and meningitis can also cause hearing loss. While vaccination against diseases helps prevent loss, what is equally important is proper ear hygiene to reduce the infections.
Get your ears checked and cleaned regularly (at least twice a year). And if you catch a cold, treat it promptly to prevent the spread of infection to your ears. While swimming, use earplugs to prevent any chance of infection.
While the above precautions will protect you to some extent against loss of hearing, the most important thing you can do on a daily basis is to ensure your ears are getting the proper nourishment they need.
So, let’s take a look at some hearing-healthy foods. Keep an eye on the following ingredients next time you serve yourself a meal.
FOODS FOR EAR HEALTH
Fish: Many fish like tuna, salmon, trout, and sardines have high levels of omega-3 fats and vitamin D. These two nutrients can have highly positive effects on maintaining healthy hearing. Omega-3 fats are essential for heart health. Not only can they help boost healthy circulation to your ears, but they also strengthen the blood vessels in your ear.
In fact, studies show that adults who ate fish twice a week had a 42% lower chance of facing age-related hearing loss than non-fish eaters. And if you’re vegetarian, try and eat food high in omega-3s.
Vegetables and fruit: Beethoven’s unhealthy lifestyle (alcohol) compounded with his diarrhea and gastric problems highlight the importance of healthy nutrition in hearing. Blood toxins and free radical damage can play havoc with the delicate hearing tissue.
A regular intake of antioxidant-rich foods like spinach, asparagus, beans, broccoli, eggs, liver, and nuts can reduce the risk of hearing loss by up to 20%. Antioxidants fight against the free radicals and help prevent damage to the nerve tissue in your inner ears. Vegetables and fruit are also rich in many vitamins and minerals that are essential for proper hearing.
Vitamin C, vitamin E, glutathione: (Oranges, guavas, bell peppers) can keep free radicals in check and strengthen your overall immune system, thereby helping to protect ear health.
Magnesium: (Bananas, potatoes, artichokes, broccoli) can help protect against noise-induced hearing loss.
Zinc: (Cooked cabbage, lemongrass, green peas, sundried tomatoes) can help reduce the oxidative stress on the inner ear and help support immune health. Besides vegetables, dark chocolate and oysters also have a high content of this important hearing mineral.
Potassium: (Potatoes, spinach, lima beans, tomatoes, bananas, yogurt) can help to regulate the fluid in the inner ear. With normal aging, these levels can drop which can contribute to hearing loss or presbycusis.
Folic Acid: (Liver, spinach, broccoli, and asparagus) helps the body to generate new cell growth and increases circulation in the body. This can contribute to the overall health of the hair cells in the inner ear.
Folate: (Chickpeas, lentils, spinach, kale) increase your intake of these items as high folate intake is associated with a decreased risk of age-related hearing loss.
Vitamin D: (Mushrooms, eggs, fortified milk and cereals) is necessary to keep delicate bones in the ear healthy. Since vitamin D doesn’t occur naturally in many foods, fortified options are usually the best bet.
B12: Similar to vitamin D, this nutrient is mostly gained from supplementation since it comes from bacteria. Dairy and meat farmers give B12 supplements to their livestock, so animal products contain the highest amount. Many people who suffer from chronic tinnitus have found that vitamin B12 supplements help to reduce the symptoms.
Follow These Healthful Tips to Help Hear Better Again
Check your ears for dirt, excessive wax, and any skin conditions regularly.
Adding a few drops of natural oils like tea tree oil regularly can prevent the ear wax from hardening.
While ear wax is good for hearing, an excessive amount of hardened ear wax can affect the quality of your hearing and will need to be removed. You can soften the wax by adding a few drops of ear wax removal solution into each ear, allowing the solution to flow into the ear canal for a few minutes before rinsing out.
Do not use Q-tips. While it seems like an easy thing to do, inserting pointy or sharp objects into the ear canal can injure the delicate skin or impact earwax.
Commit to an Annual Hearing Test
For many adults, hearing tests are not performed annually as part of a medical check-up. However, for people over the age of 50, it should be. Even if no hearing loss is detected, having yearly records on file is important for your overall health portfolio. If a problem is detected, you will be able to make decisions for treatment immediately. Leaving hearing loss untreated can bring many negative consequences to overall health and well-being.
Meditation is quickly becoming a recommended solution treatment for a variety of health issues. By relaxing and taking deep breaths, you are increasing blood flow to important parts of the brain. Focusing on ambient sounds such as birds or people can help the brain focus and become more attuned to sounds in daily life. While this is more of a mental hearing improvement than a physical one, it can prove helpful.
Face to Face
Face to face conversations in person is often the best way to communicate for those with hearing loss. The telephone may be difficult as well as having a conversation with a lot of background noise. Try speaking in quiet places sitting facing your conversation partner and make sure the lighting is good, so you are able to see the lips of the person speaking.
Many people who are hard of hearing say that the workout improves their quality of life. Stretching and relaxing can help encourage blood flow and focus. For example, downward dog sends oxygen-rich blood to the head which can be helpful to improve hearing. Practicing yoga can be done easily at home and doesn’t take too much time or equipment.
Use Technology to Your Advantage
With so many advances in technology, there are many that can help make life easier for those with hearing loss. Many wireless hearing aids can connect to an app on a smartphone. The microphone may be used as an amplifier, which captures the sounds you want to hear and streams it to your hearing aids. Bluetooth devices can also allow streaming from home entertainment systems to hearing aids. Many states offer free captioned telephones which transcribe conversations in real time, allowing you to read and follow the conversation in one.
Practicing Sound Location and Identification
The brain plays a large part in how sound is processed. This means fine-tuning the mind’s ability to focus on noise can help to improve hearing. Put music on in one room and walk around the house while listening. Focus on the sounds and try to identify certain words or instruments. By doing this simple activity the brain can train itself to understand sounds and locate distances.
And finally, the most important aspect of hearing is listening. If you let things go in one ear and out the other, it’s not going to help the cause. There is plenty of advice on preventing hearing loss. And all you need to do to keep your ears healthy is… listen!