Easy tips for protecting your hearing—and your youth
The anti-aging business is huge these days, with everyone wanting to stay young and look good forever. I get it. I want the same thing! And I’m a firm believer in anti-aging. But the fact is, that process comes from within.
You can have all the fillers, Botox, and facelifts you want, but if you don’t focus on what’s happening inside your body, those other treatments will only take you so far.
Plus, looking younger is only half the battle. When it comes to true anti-aging, you ultimately want to feel younger too.
With that in mind, today I want to look past the wrinkles and gray hair and other visible signs of aging, and talk about a far more serious age-related issue: hearing loss.
Hearing loss affects approximately 48 million Americans and is twice as prevalent as diabetes and cancer.
People are terrified of losing their hearing—and for good reason. Because the consequences of hearing loss go far beyond simply having to wear a bulky hearing aid.
In fact, protecting your hearing is, quite literally, a matter of life and death.
The surprising link between hearing and longevity
Hearing, as you may already know, plays a huge part in maintaining your balance. And good balance is what contributes to your gait—or how quickly and steadily you walk. Research has shown that gait is one of the best predictors of living a long, healthy, fulfilling life.
So protecting and maintaining your balance and gait is one of the underlying keys to real anti-aging. And you need good hearing to do that.
But, contrary to what we’ve been led to believe, hearing loss is not just a part of aging that you have to accept. You can stop it in its tracks—and even reverse it. Or, even better—prevent it from happening altogether.
And it starts, once again, with nutrition.
Protect your hearing by filling your plate
A new study reveals just how big of a role diet plays in protecting your hearing—and extending your longevity.
Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital conducted the Nurses’ Health Study II, which examined the relationship between diet and hearing loss. Participants in this study followed one of three specific diets:
1) Alternate Mediterranean Diet (AMED):
This diet includes plenty of healthy fats, vegetables, fruits, nuts, fish (and other lean protein sources), and moderate intake of alcohol. (And if it sounds familiar, it should—it’s the foundation of my A-List Diet, with a few additional tweaks that I believe make it even more nutritious. Not to mention help rev up your metabolism, which is yet another underlying key to true anti-aging. You can learn more about the A-List Diet by visiting www.alistdietbook.com.)
2) Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH)
This diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and low fat or nonfat dairy. It’s also very low sodium.
3) Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010 (AHEI-2010)
These dietary guidelines promote a high intake of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, omega-3s, and a low intake of red meat.
Nearly 71,000 women participated in the 22-year study. And researchers concluded that eating a healthy diet is significantly linked to a lower risk of hearing loss in women.1
Setting the record straight on “healthy” diets
Of course, they lumped all of these diets together as “healthy.” But as you know, I have some serious misgivings about the DASH diet.
The emphasis on low-fat dairy is just plain wrong. Take out the fat and what you’re left with is sugar. Sugar not only speeds up aging in general, but research also shows it directly contributes to hearing loss.2
And don’t even get me started again on the ridiculously low sodium guidelines set by DASH. At best, they’re unrealistic…at worst, they’re downright deadly. (Lowering your sodium intake to the impossibly low levels recommended by DASH sets you up for kidney disease and increases your heart attack risk.)
The AHEI diet has some major shortcomings as well. The emphasis on whole grains, for one. Whole grains have somehow come to be considered a “health food.” But the fact is, they still turn into sugar in your body.
And as far as red meat is concerned—yes, meat riddled with antibiotics and growth hormones from animals fattened on GMO corn IS something you should avoid at all costs. But red meat from livestock that are fully pasture-raised from start to finish is perfectly healthy.
By contrast, a Mediterranean-style diet has none of these red flags. In fact, unlike the other two diets in this study, the Mediterranean diet has also been proven—over and over again—to lower inflammation and oxidative stress, which is key in preventing every age-related health condition and chronic disease.
Of course, aside from eating a healthy and balanced diet, nutritional supplementation can also be a real game-changer when it comes to preserving your hearing (and your youth).
But before I dive into the supplements I recommend to combat age-related hearing loss, it helps to understand what causes it in the first place.
How hearing loss happens
Sensorineural hearing loss, the kind associated with aging, reduces your ability to hear faint sounds and also muffles louder noises. And it occurs as a result of nerve damage—either to the tiny cells in the cochlea (the part of the inner ear resembling a snail shell), which convert sound waves into nerve impulses, or to the actual nerve cells that transmit those impulses to the brain.
This means that anything that damages nerve cells will also damage your hearing. And new research shows one of the primary culprits is something you’d never suspect.
The heart killer that’s also stealing your hearing
If you’ve heard of homocysteine at all before now, it was probably in reference to heart health. It’s true that homocysteine is an indicator of heart attack and stroke risk. But high homocysteine levels tell us so much more than that. They also give you a glimpse into how your brain, eyes, bones, stomach, and mood are faring.
And now, we can also add hearing to that list.
A breakthrough study published last year in the journal Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience clearly linked elevated homocysteine levels to hearing loss.3
Specifically, it showed:
- High total plasma homocysteine is strongly associated with age-related hearing loss.
- Rare genetic diseases that cause high homocysteine levels are also strongly associated with hearing loss.
- Animal studies demonstrating that high homocysteine levels—as well as deficiencies in vitamins required to clear homocysteine—produce the type of hearing loss seen in older adults.
Another study involving subjects age 50 and older found that those with elevated total homocysteine levels were 64% more likely to have hearing loss compared to those with normal homocysteine levels.4
So if you want to save your hearing, it’s important to know what your levels are. The thing is, low levels don’t produce symptoms, so you need to ask your doctor for a simple blood panel test during your next checkup. (Some states also allow you to order your own blood tests online. One website I trust is www.DirectLabs.com.)
Unfortunately, most labs—and in turn, most doctors—will tell you anything between 4 and 15 micromoles per liter (mmol/L) is normal. That’s quite a broad range to work with. But an overwhelming amount of evidence points to 8 mmol/L as the optimal number—and that’s what I shoot for with my patients. (I recommend having your blood levels tested every 3 months until you hit that goal—and then every 6 months thereafter.)
Silencing homocysteine’s damaging effects
The good news is, if your homocysteine levels are high, it’s incredibly easy (and cheap) to get them under control. And you don’t need a long list of medications to do it.
You just need to take the right amounts of a few easy-to-find vitamins: B6, B12 and folic acid.
In fact, folic acid does double duty here, since research shows deficiencies of this essential nutrient are also associated with hearing loss.
A recent study also found that omega-3 fatty acids actually help boost the homocysteine-lowering effect of B vitamins. So here’s what I recommend:
- Vitamin B6 (or pyridoxine): 50 mg per day
- Methylated vitamin B12 (or methylcobalamin): 2,000 mcg per day
- Methylated folic acid: 5 mg per day
- Fish oils: 1,500 mg twice per day of EPA/DHA
Of course, you’ll get an added boost of all of these nutrients by following a Mediterranean-style diet, too. Which brings us full circle.
The bottom line: Proper nutrition is essential for protecting your hearing as you age. But that’s just one of the ways it fights aging from the inside out.
In addition to helping you ward off hearing loss, it also reduces your risk of a laundry list of other serious, chronic diseases—from cancer to Alzheimer’s to diabetes.
And if you ask me, preventing those diseases is the best anti-aging outcome you could ask for.
More tips for maintaining your hearing
In addition to the essential supplements I mention on page 4, here are a few more of my favorite tips for ultimate hearing protection:
Supplement with Pynogenol®: 100 to 200 milligrams daily. This increases blood flow to the smallest blood vessels, ensuring ample oxygen gets to where it needs to go to keep those nerve cells I mentioned above healthy and alive.
Supplement with ginkgo biloba: 120 milligrams, three times daily. This will also help to increase circulation to the inner ear.
Wear ear plugs: Wear them to concerts, train stations, movie theatres, or any crowded place where you know there will be loud noise pollution.
Use a low volume on all devices: Try getting in the habit of turning the speakers on your TV, car radio, computer, phone, and headphones on the lowest audible volume. You may have to pay a bit more attention to what you’re listening to, which is actually great for keeping your cognitive function sharp as well. Eventually, that lower volume will become your new norm.
 “Healthy diet may lower risk of hearing loss in women,” EurekAlert (www.eurekalert.org), 5/11/18
 “Dietary glycemic load is a predictor of age-related hearing loss in older adults.” J Nutr. 2010;140(12): 2207-12.
 “Cochlear Homocysteine Metabolism at the Crossroad of Nutrition and Sensorineural Hearing Loss,” Front Mol Neurosci. 2017; 10: 107.
 “Serum homocysteine and folate concentrations are associated with prevalent age-related hearing loss.” J Nutr. 2010; 140(8): 1469-74.