Author: Kerri Knox, RN, Registered Nurse and Functional Medicine Practitioner
Current thinking has us believe that age-related hearing loss is an inevitable consequence of getting older, but is it really? Hundreds of studies from around the world show severe vitamin deficiencies in those with hearing loss. Even more importantly replacing the missing vitamins improved the hearing loss in vast numbers of people, making hearing loss simply another one of many age-related problems preventable with good nutrition.
When most of us think of getting older, we think of canes to walk, glasses to see and hearing aids to hear. But is this an inevitable consequence of aging, or is it due to modifiable and preventable environmental factors? We are told that the only modifiable way to prevent hearing loss is to keep away from loud noises, but hearing loss seems to have less to do with loud sounds than it does with nutrition.
Nutrient deficiencies are often overlooked as causes or contributing factors in many diseases, and they are also overlooked factors in hearing loss. Studies done all over the world by completely different teams of researchers using completely different nutritional supplements and using completely different methods of studying the problem have all come to the same conclusion — hearing loss can be prevented and even improved with nutritional supplementation.
Some of the most interesting studies come from Vitamin D Research. Vitamin D is well known to be responsible for the calcium absorption required for strong bones. The most well known problem associated with lack of vitamin D is rickets, a softening of the bones in children leading to bowed legs. But less well known is a similar condition in adults called osteopenia where the bones can become porous and demineralized. When vitamin D deficiency causes osteopenia in the tiny bones of the ears, this can lead to hearing loss and even deafness. Strikingly, correcting the vitamin D deficiency often corrects the hearing loss and even the deafness in these specific cases.
“Magnesium treatment has been repeatedly shown to reduce the incidence of both temporary and permanent noise-induced hearing loss.”
A nutrient with a wider application in hearing loss is magnesium. We are fortunate that hearing loss is an issue in governmental applications such as the Air Force, because this has given us a rich source of studies done in order to find practical ways to prevent the hearing loss associated with continual noise.
And magnesium has been shown to do this well. Many studies have been done where people subjected to noise were protected from noise-related hearing loss when they were pre-treated with magnesium. Magnesium given after noise exposure worked to correct that hearing loss as well. Industrialized countries have an “epidemic of magnesium deficiency,” according to Dr. Carolyn Dean, author of “The Magnesium Miracle.” Since magnesium is inexpensive and readily available, this one nutrient could have wide uses in high noise settings and even in nursing homes where the vast majority of residents suffer from hearing loss as well as magnesium deficiency.
Free Radical Scavengers
Denoted as “Free Radical Scavengers,” Vitamin C, Lipoic Acid, Vitamin E and glutathione have all been used to prevent and treat hearing loss. Poor hearing was significantly improved in as short a time as 8 weeks. Interestingly enough, several of these studies were done using patients that had exhausted all other treatments for their condition without improvement, yet there was significant improvements in hearing using free radical scavenger therapy.
Vitamin B-12, folic acid and zinc have all been shown to improve hearing in different studies, with zinc being singled out by Dr. George E. Shambaugh Jr., Founder of the Shambaugh Hearing and Allergy Center in Hinsdale, Illinois: “We believe zinc deficiency is one causation of presbycusis [hearing loss]; by recognizing and correcting it, a progressive hearing loss can be arrested.” One study even showed that Homocysteine Levels in the blood, a good indicator of B vitamin status, is inversely correlated with hearing loss. This means that the higher the Homocysteine levels, indicating worsening B vitamin deficiency, the worse the hearing loss.
Most of these supplements are inexpensive and readily available. More importantly, the majority of these substances are safe to take for the vast majority of people who suffer from hearing loss.