Oxidative Stress Series Part 1: Hearing Protection From the Inside

Oxidative Stress Series Part 1: Hearing Protection From the Inside

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If you’re like most of us, you made some New Year’s resolutions this year. You may well have resolved to eat better and exercise more. Now, after a month into 2012, how are those resolutions working out for you?

You know, Mom got some things right—all those reminders about an apple a day and carrots being good for your vision? Turns out they’re true! But I’ll bet you that Mom didn’t know that blueberries could help prevent hearing loss! And that’s only part of the story.

Medical and nutrition news over the past few years has been emphasizing the benefits of certain foods high in nutrients called antioxidants, and for one main reason: antioxidants have been shown to slow down and even reverse many of the effects of aging, such as the breakdown of collagen that keeps skin supple and the hardening of artery walls. These pronouncements are not simply part of some new health-food craze, but are evidenced by rigorous science.

These aging effects, which also include hearing loss, are due to a process deep inside cells called toxic oxidative stress. Increasing the availability of antioxidants in the body helps cells fight oxidative stress. We can increase (or even decrease!) the availability of antioxidants in the body through the foods we eat. While dietary supplements can also contribute to beneficial antioxidants, the best sources are whole, plant-based foods—fruits and vegetables—that are deeply and brightly colored, including berries, peppers (capsicum), stone fruits like cherries and plums, dark-green leafy vegetables like spinach, and cruciferous plants such as broccoli (in addition to Mom’s favorites, apples and carrots). Other foods on the list are green tea, tree nuts, and legumes (beans and peas). These are foods that are high in phytochemicals (i.e., polyphenols, flavinoids, tannins), vitamins A, C, and E (tocopherols), and minerals like zinc and selenium. These foods also tend to be high in fiber, low in saturated fat, and available in an extraordinary variety. And since variety is the spice of life, you can indulge to your heart’s content (and your heart will thank you, too, come to think of it)!

When you consider what these foods and their antioxidant properties can do for your hearing, you can begin to think of them as hearing protection from the inside. If you work in a high-noise environment, your earplugs and earmuffs protect your hearing from the outside. It just so happens that the whole-fruit berry-and-citrus smoothie you had this morning is working with your earplugs to keep your hearing in good shape for the long-haul.

In my next post, we’ll look at oxidative stress a little more closely, how it occurs, and how it affects hearing. Until then, continue to protect your hearing from the inside and the outside.

Blog Author:  Dr. Robert Ghent  
Blog Catagories:  Oxidative Stress  Hearing Health  

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