Eating healthfully may substantially reduce the risk of acquired hearing loss, according to investigators from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston.

The researchers measured the hearing abilities of middle-aged and senior women in geographically diverse U.S. test sites over three years. They also compared 20 years of dietary data to determine how closely the participants’ diets resembled three commonly recommended regimens. These include the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, the Alternate Mediterranean diet, and the Alternate Healthy Index-2010.

Women whose diets adhered closely to these regimens had a 30% lower risk of decline in mid-frequency hearing sensitivities compared with women whose diets did not. Similarly, their relative risk of losing high-frequency hearing sensitivities was 25% lower.

“The benefits of adherence to healthful dietary patterns have been associated with numerous positive health outcomes and eating a healthy diet may also help reduce the risk of hearing loss,” concluded lead author Sharon Curhan, M.D.

Notably, many of the women were already losing some hearing despite being in their 50s and 60s – before the age most people will have their hearing checked, wrote Curhan and colleagues. 

“Despite this considerable worsening in their hearing sensitivities, hearing loss among many of these participants would not typically be detected or addressed,” Curhan said.
The investigators plan to continue following the participants over time with repeated hearing tests.

Results of the current study were published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.