Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet Include Lowering Your Risk of Hearing Loss

According to a new study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, adhering to the Mediterranean diet can reduce your risk of hearing loss.


By Elizabeth Millard |

  • According to a new study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, adhering to the Mediterranean diet can reduce your risk of hearing loss.
  • The Mediterranean diet has also been proven to reduce heart disease risk and help improve your performance on the bike.
  • The Mediterranean diet includes foods such as chicken, salmon, Greek yogurt, beans, olive oil, nuts, fruits, and vegetables.

The Mediterranean diet has been lauded for its potential to slow down a major biomarker for aging, significantly reduce heart disease risk, help improve symptoms of depression, and even get faster on the bike. Now, one more big benefit joins that list: According to new research, you may also reduce your risk of hearing loss as you age.

The study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, looked at data from just over 3,000 women in their 50s and 60s who were part of the Nurses’ Health Study II—a research effort that collected a considerable amount of information on diet, lifestyle, and health on over 100,000 women.

For the hearing loss study, researchers studied food questionnaires and hearing sensitivity tests done over a three-year period. At the end of the study timeframe, 19 percent had low- frequency hearing loss—like trouble hearing in noisy environments—38 percent had mid-frequency hearing loss—like trouble hearing a TV show played at a normal volume—and nearly half had high-frequency hearing loss—like trouble understanding normal speech.

When comparing this data with their diets, they found that those who followed Mediterranean diets, as well as the DASH diet—which also includes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish, poultry, and nuts—had up to 30-percent lower risk of hearing loss. Given how common hearing issues can be during the aging process, a 30-percent reduction is considerable, according to lead author Sharon Curhan, M.D., of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

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“A common perception is that hearing loss is an inevitable part of the aging process,” Curhan told Bicycling. “However, our findings illustrate that there may be potentially modifiable risk factors. There are things we can change in our diet and lifestyle to prevent hearing loss or delay its progression.”

In terms of the connection, the study didn’t directly examine causal mechanisms, said Curhan, but previous work has shown that hearing damage can result from a number of factors, including compromised blood flow to the cochlea—the main organ in the inner ear—as well as cell damage, inflammation, and degeneration of neurons along auditory pathways.

There are things we can change in our diet and lifestyle to prevent hearing loss or delay its progression.

“A healthier diet may influence these processes and protect against hearing loss by a number of mechanisms, which include protection against oxidative [cell] damage, promotion of beneficial blood lipids, better endothelial [heart and blood vessel] function, lower blood pressure, and less inflammation,” said Curhan.

The bottom line? Incorporating foods such as chicken, salmon, Greek yogurt, beans, olive oil, nuts, fruits, and vegetables into your diet can benefit your ears just as much as they benefit your heart, brain, and performance.

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