Roughly 40 million Americans suffer from hearing loss or related hearing impairments such as tinnitus. Auditory system disabilities are the third most common type of disability claimed by veterans. It doesn’t get much attention, but yes, there are in many instances in which natural therapies can help you reduce or overcome hearing loss issues. More on that shortly.
Hearing loss affects all of us to some extent. It starts out gradually from the moment we’re born and is often not noticed until after age 55.
One of the Four Great Health
Issues Associated with Aging
According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, “along with heart problems, hypertension, and arthritis, hearing impairment is one of the four leading chronic health conditions” experienced with age. Hearing loss will grow as a health concern, especially among the aging Baby Boomers.
Fortunately, you can take a number of steps to guard your auditory independence and keep hearing loss from happening to you – or slow down the damage if it has begun.
Beware of your environment at home and at work. Many common sounds may be louder than you realize. Nearly one-quarter of hearing loss is attributed to the noise around you (also called Noise-Induced Hearing Loss – NIHL).
Everyday Dangers to Your Hearing Abound
NIHL can be caused by a one-time exposure to loud sound, such as an explosion, as well as by repeated exposure to loud sounds over a period of time. For instance, normal conversation occurs at 60 dB and is not loud enough to cause damage. But according to DangerousDecibels.org:
An idling bulldozer is loud enough at 85 dB to cause permanent damage in one eight-hour workday.
Listening to music on earphones for just 15 minutes per day at a standard volume level 5 (100 dB), is loud enough to cause permanent damage!
Thunder (120 dB), gunshots (140-190 dB), motorcycles, and firecrackers can cause immediate damage.
Other common sounds you should be concerned about: Vacuum cleaners, blenders, hair dryers, driving on the highway with the windows open, rock concerts, power tools, and more.
DangerousDecibles.org offers this rule of thumb: If you cannot understand someone talking to you in a normal speaking voice when they are an arm’s length away… whatever is going on in the background is dangerously loud.
Other Causes of Hearing Loss
That May Affect You or a Loved One
Meniere’s disease – according to estimates by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communications Disorders (NIDCD), more than 615,000 people in the United States have this disease, and nearly 45,000 new cases are reported each year.
Otosclerosis is a bony growth that forms on the ossicles and causes the stapes to become immobile, interfering with sound transference into the cochlea.
Ototoxic drugs are medications in which the side effects from prolonged use include auditory damage. They include aminoglycoside antibiotics such as streptomycin and neomycin, loop diuretics such as lasix and ethacrynic acid, and chemotherapy drugs cisplatin and carboplatin.
All causes of hearing loss can be worsened by additional or continued exposure to loud sound. [Note: Proximity to the sound source affects loudness. For example, if you use earphones for your iPod or Bluetooth phone, realize that the speakers are practically right on top of your eardrums.]
The best approach to hearing loss is prevention, says Richard Salvi, co-director of the University of Buffalo Center for Hearing and Deafness.
And it’s pretty simple to do:
Get away from the source of the sound; increase your distance from it.
Turn down the volume.
Use ear protection such as earplugs or earmuffs.
Today you can find electronic earmuffs that allow you to hear low-level sounds, but automatically protect you from sudden spikes in dangerous sounds. These types of ear protection are especially popular among hunters.
Good News on the Horizon
The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) helped identify some of the genes important to hearing and ear development. It also supports studies using gene therapy to re-grow hearing cells in mammals.
In a study the antioxidants in salicylate (aspirin) and Trolox (vitamin E) were given to guinea pigs as long as three days after noise exposure and still significantly reduced hearing loss.
Many nutritional supplements have been used for Meniere’s disease, according to nutrition expert Phyllis Balch. Manganese is an essential supplement because manganese deficiency is believed to be a factor in the onset of Meniere’s disease.
According to Dr. Robert Anderson, patients with hearing loss disproportionately show signs of deficiencies in key nutrients. Important nutritional supplements that may help maintain your hearing health are chromium picolinate, B vitamins, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, coenzyme Q10, essential fatty acids, lecithin, and vitamin E. Herbal supplements include cayenne pepper, ginger, and ginkgo.
Nutritional supplements containing fluoride have been prescribed to slow or stop the loss of hearing due to Otosclerosis. However, pregnant women and young children should absolutely not take it. (And fluoride ingestion carries risks that may outweigh any benefits.)
Research shows that treatment with L-carnitine improves the Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) results in rats experiencing age-related hearing loss.
Researchers at the University of Michigan are developing a supplement that will likely contain betacarotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, and magnesium that they suggest could reverse hearing injury, if it’s administered within three days of damage from a loud noise.
While researchers are developing new methods to cure and reverse hearing loss, the best methods to maintain your aural health right now are the prevention steps listed above and optimal nutrition and supplementation.