Folate Shows Promise in Preventing Age-Related Hearing Loss

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Hearing loss can have serious consequences that go beyond simply being a nuisance when you miss the telephone ring or having to constantly ask people to repeat themselves. It can also lead to an unwillingness to talk to others because of embarrassment or fear, resulting in feelings of social isolation, loss of confidence and self-esteem, and even depression.

However, new research brings hope for the prevention of hearing loss. Recent findings, published in the Journal of Nutrition indicate that low levels of folate found in green leafy vegetables, chick peas and lentils are associated with an increased risk of hearing loss.

Hearing loss: Say that again please…

This is not the first time that folate has been linked to the prevention of hearing loss.

Two previous studies also revealed that folate can delay age-related hearing loss:

  • A 2007 Dutch study from Wageningen University, found that folic acid supplements delayed age-related hearing loss in the low frequency region.
  • In 2009 Boston-based researchers told the 2009 American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation (AAO-HNSF) Annual Meeting in San Diego that men over the age of 60 with high folate intake from foods and supplements had a 20 per cent reduced risk of developing hearing loss.

The most recent study, The Blue Mountains Hearing Study, conducted at the University of Sydney, Australia, adds to the growing body of evidence supporting folate’s benefits for hearing. The study, based on a population of 2,956 people aged 50 and over, examined blood levels of folate, vitamin B12, and homocysteine and correlated this with the risk of age-related hearing loss.

The data showed that folate levels below 11 nanomoles per litre were associated with a 34 per cent increased risk of age-related hearing loss.

In addition, levels of homocysteine over 20 micromoles per litre were associated with a 64 per cent increase in the risk of hearing loss.

Hearing loss: Dangers of homocysteine

As we’ve reported numerous times in past e-alerts, high blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine have been linked to a range of serious health conditions, including heart disease and dementia. Elevated levels of homocysteine can also negatively affect blood flow in the inner ear, which could increase the risk of age-related hearing loss.

Numerous studies have shown that B vitamin levels influence homocysteine levels in the blood.

Despite the link between B vitamin levels, homocysteine and hearing loss, the Australian researchers said that large, prospective studies will be required in the future to accurately assess these associations.

Hearing loss: How to tell if your hearing is impaired

Age-related hearing loss is often gradual. Look out for these signs to tell if you are at risk:

  • Difficulty hearing the television and/or telephone
  • Problems understanding what is being said in conversations or within a group
  • Constantly feeling like you have to ask people to repeat themselves
  • Disappearance of higher frequency sounds – this can include women’s and children’s voices, and birdsong
  • Not hearing a noise unless you are facing the direction it’s coming from
  • People tell you you’re shouting when you talk to them
  • You seem to hear better in one ear than another

If any of the above symptoms apply to you, speak to your doctor about having a hearing test. This is a simple and painless procedure, and it’s worth having if you’re over the age of 65 – even if you don’t think you have any trouble with your hearing – just to rule out any problems.

Many people who think their hearing is fine, may have a small but imperceptible loss of hearing, which may increase over time without them realising it.

4 steps to take right now to prevent hearing loss

Natural measures can be especially helpful in protecting your hearing from age-related damage. They include:

  • Alpha lipoic acid and vitamin E help protect your ears from free radical damage. Alpha lipoic acid is a potent antioxidant that reduces the risk of presbyacusis (hearing loss of older people) by protecting your auditory nerve against free radicals.
  • In addition, scientific research shows that alpha lipoic acid can also reduce the risk of hearing loss due to other causes such as toxins from antibiotics or other medication. The dose is 250mg twice a day. Using Alpha lipoic acid in conjunction with 400IU of vitamin E has been found to produce an even more beneficial effect.
  • Glutathione: Levels of glutathione in your brain generally diminish with age and supplements of glutathione have been shown to prevent hearing loss, not only by protecting your auditory nerve but also by reducing age-related damage to the hearing centres of your brain. Glutathione should be taken at a dose of 250mg to 500mg daily.
  • Ginkgo biloba helps relieve tinnitus associated hearing loss. Tinnitus is a common problem which causes a persistent ringing noise in the ears. Tinnitus is usually associated with loss of hearing, and many patients have reported that their hearing has greatly improved after taking ginkgo. The dose is 120mg a day.


Disclaimer: Bear in mind the material contained in this article is provided for information purposes only. We are not addressing anyone’s personal situation. Please consult with your own physician before acting on any recommendations contained herein.

Sources:

Journal of Nutrition, Published online ahead of print, doi:10.3945/jn.110.122010

Serum Homocysteine and Folate Concentrations Are Associated with Prevalent Age-Related Hearing Loss, by B. Gopinath, V.M. Flood, E. Rochtchina, C.M. McMahon, P. Mitchell

Annals of Internal Medicine, Vol. 146, pp. 1-9

Hear Res 1999,117(1-2):31-38: Chem Biol Interact 2001,138:189-198

Hear Res 1999, 128(1-2):40-44

Biochem Biophys Res 1998,253(1):114-118

Brain Res 1998,784(1-2):82-90

J Korean Med Sci 1998, 13(5):525-528

Arch Otorhino 1975, 209(3) 203-215

Adv Otorhinol 1995,(49):101-104

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