Declining hearing loss is often a frequent complaint in my older patients. They’re not alone either as it affects more than 28 million American men and women between ages 60-74. My patients wonder if there is anything they can do about their hearing loss or is it just something they have to chalk up to plain ole’ aging.
I explain that their hearing loss is likely due to getting older, but it may not be just because of aging. After ruling out any structural problems causing hearing loss, there may be something very simple you can do to improve your hearing. I’d like to pass along what you can do to improve your hearing naturally by optimizing your nutrition.
Vitamin B Deficiency and Hearing Loss
My patients are often surprised when I tell them that their hearing loss may actually be associated with a lack of B vitamins. That’s right. Once we pass the age of 50, most of us lose the ability to adequately absorb the B vitamins from our food through our intestine, especially B12. Vitamin B deficiencies can cause a whole host of physical symptoms in older people such as memory loss, irritability, anxiety and hearing loss to name a few.
In a recent study done by the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, it was found that both older men and women with speech frequency hearing loss had 32% decreased serum folate levels. Those with higher frequency hearing loss were found to have 35% lower folate levels as compared to people with normal range hearing. They were also found to have decreased B12 levels as well, as folic acid and B12 complement each other – if one is low, the other usually is too. Improvement in study participants hearing occurred after optimal B12 and folate levels were restored. Once levels were restored, many patients noticed improved hearing and less ear ringing.
Optimize Your B Vitamins
As we get older, several things can happen which may prevent us from getting optimal nutrition. Some of these include a lack, or loss, of appetite, ill-fitting dentures, inability to digest certain foods very well, and inability to process B12 in the intestine. Sometimes older people become bored and/or lose interest in eating.
However, getting the right nutrition is crucial to prevent many of the diseases associated with getting older. Getting enough of the B vitamins has been proven by research to be absolutely essential in both preventing memory loss and improving and/or preventing hearing loss.
Here’s what I recommend to my patients to boost their folate and B12 vitamins intake and absorption:
- Folate/Folic acid: Can be found in fruits, leafy green vegetables, superfoods like beets nuts and legumes, and whole grains, a few servings a day. Also, look for a good superfood supplement that contains folic acid.
- B12: The best, most easily absorbable source is in red meat like beef and lamb. However, if you cannot, or do not wish to eat red meat, you can get enough B12 in eggs or milk, and/or supplement form. A simple blood test can disclose if you are deficient in B12. Injections are also available which bypass stomach gastric acids, which can cause poor absorption of B12. Make sure you are getting about 400 mcg a day.
As I tell my patients, not all hearing loss problems are caused by folate/B12 deficiencies. It is important to first rule out any structural problems, illness, or condition that may be underlying the hearing loss.
In addition, an audiometry test should be done to evaluate how much hearing loss you have. If these evaluations are normal, it would be worthwhile to check your folate and B12 levels in your blood through a simple blood test at your doctor’s office. If your levels are deficient, upping your nutritional levels of these vitamins is very important to maintain good health as you get older and keep you hearing loud and clear!
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.
Natural Health News
Hearing Loss Linked to Folate, B12 deficiencies, http://www.medpagetoday.com/Surgery/Otolaryngology/23698