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Have you noticed your own or a loved one’s hearing isn’t as sharp as it used to be? If so, you’re not alone, because hearing loss is the second most common disability in the UK, with an estimated 11 million adults affected.
If you find you’re straining to hear what others are saying, or you’re concerned about your future hearing, it’s time to take action. You’ll be pleased to know nature has an amazing toolkit of natural substances to help you protect your hearing.
Read on to find out more.
First, let’s have a little look at how exactly you are able to hear. Your ear is made up of three different parts. Your outer ear acts like a trumpet, catching sound waves and directing them towards the middle ear. This is a cavity containing a structure called the tympanic membrane, popularly known as the eardrum. The membrane vibrates when hit by sound waves. The vibrations then pass to three tiny bones called ossicles which transmit soundwaves onwards to the inner ear. This final section contains the fluid-filled cochlea, where minute hairs transform sound into electrical impulses. These are then translated by your brain.
If you can’t detect noises below 25 decibels – about the same as the sound made by the rustling of leaves – in at least one ear during a hearing test, you are considered to be suffering from hearing loss. On the other hand, profound deafness is an inability to hear noises less than 95 decibels. This is slightly louder than a lawnmower or a power tool.
Hearing loss can lead to feelings of isolation, frustration, decreased self-esteem and loneliness in those affected. It can significantly affect family members, too.
This article will concentrate on adult hearing loss. The two most common causes of this are age and noise exposure.
Around 40% of adults over 55 in the UK suffer from some degree of hearing loss. Higher-frequency sounds are usually lost first.
The structures of your ear are susceptible to the same age-related processes that damage any other part of your body. These include oxidative stress from an excess of free radicals, along with inflammation. The tiny hairs with the job of transmitting sound waves can become damaged over time, and blood circulation to your inner ear may decrease.
Exposure to loud noises damages hearing in younger people and increases the likelihood of suffering from hearing loss in older age.
Loud noises cause free radicals to be produced, These are reactive substances which can damage the cells in the ear. Noise can also bring about the constriction of tiny blood vessels carrying blood to the ear. This means its supply of energy, oxygen and nutrients is decreased.
Your ears need certain nutrients to function well. Here are a few of them:
Omega 3 fats are great for lowering any ongoing inflammation which may be affecting your hearing. In fact, dietary studies have found the more omega 3 a person eats, the less likely they are to suffer from age-related hearing loss 1.
A diet rich in natural antioxidants, in other words, packed with colourful fruit and vegetables, will help quench those free radicals and avoid the cellular damage contributing to hearing loss. In animal studies, antioxidant supplements were found to prevent noise-induced hearing loss. This has led to some scientists recommending taking an antioxidant supplement including vitamins C and E if you know you’ll be exposed to loud noise.
Folate and vitamin B12 are both homocysteine-lowering nutrients. Studies have revealed two-thirds of people with high levels of homocysteine, a marker for potential arterial damage, had hearing loss. This is thought to be because elevated homocysteine can cause reduced blood flow to the ear.
Have your iron levels checked. Even marginal iron deficiency can reduce blood flow to the ear sufficiently to affect hearing.
This herb is not only an antioxidant, but it helps dilate blood vessels, too, improving blood flow to the inner ear. Early studies suggest it could help hearing loss, particularly noise-induced.
As many as 25% of people with poor thyroid function suffer from hearing loss too. Your thyroid could be struggling even if a GP’s test comes back as normal. So, you may be one of the many people walking around with an undiagnosed thyroid issue. Our practitioners can recommend sensitive functional tests and supportive nutrients if your thyroid is struggling.
If you would like to explore further how to naturally support your hearing, we’re here to help. We can assess whether any nutritional deficiencies, hormone imbalances or ongoing inflammation may be affecting your hearing. We’ll then equip you with personalised strategies to optimise your hearing.
Do you need personalised natural support for Seasonal Affective Disorder? Then book a free 15-minute discovery call to see if Functional Medicine is for you.
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