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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Florida Finds When it comes to Hearing, Diet May Trump Noise Exposure

Although the old wives’ tale about carrots being good for your eyesight has been debunked, University of Florida researchers have found a link between healthy eating and another of your five senses: hearing.

Dr. Christopher Spankovich, a research assistant professor in the department of speech, language, and hearing sciences at the University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions, examined the eating habits of participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. In previous work, Dr. Spankovich found that the higher a person scored on the Healthy Eating Index, a part of the survey, the better his or her auditory function.

Dr. Spankovich examined data from 2,366 people. In addition to answering questionnaires about their health during the original survey, participants were given a four-part hearing test. When Dr. Spankovich analyzed the data, he found a strong connection among diet, hearing and noise exposure.

The hearing of people who ate well but had higher noise exposure was comparable to the hearing of people with lower noise exposure who ate poorer diets, according to results published recently in the International Journal of Audiology. While eating healthfully may not reverse hearing damage, a good diet may play a part in prevention.

“Our hearing health is linked to our general health. Our auditory system is dependent on our cardiovascular, neural and metabolic health, and if we are not healthy in general, it makes sense that we could increase our susceptibility to hearing loss,” Dr. Spankovich said.

Hearing can be affected in multiple ways, some of which are avoidable and some of which aren’t, Dr. Spankovich said. Some unchangeable factors include sex, genetics, race, ethnicity and age. Some changeable factors include cardiovascular health issues, diet, ototoxic medications and exposure to loud noise. Dr. Spankovich and the study’s co-author Dr. Colleen Le Prell, an associate professor and interim chair for the department of speech, language and hearing sciences and director of the Hearing Research Center at Florida, only found the relationship between a better diet and better hearing in higher frequencies, not in lower frequencies.

Dr. Spankovich emphasized their study identified a relationship between hearing and diet — not a causal link.

“These initial studies are showing the link between diet, auditory function and noise exposure. We can’t show cause-and-effect because it’s a cross-sectional study,” he said.

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