05 January 2015

Lifestyle can affect hearing positively and negatively

Some lifestyles and habits can affect hearing in a positive way, while others can be harmful to hearing and lead to hearing loss.

Lifestyle choices like eating healthy food or drinking a certain amount of coffee per day can affect hearing in a positive way. On the other hand, listening to loud music on headphones or eating unhealthy food are lifestyle choices that can negatively affect hearing. Also, the choice of smoking during pregnancy may lead to hearing loss in the child.

Healthy food, healthy hearing?

Being on a diet with calorie restrictions can have a positive effect and actually benefit hearing, a Swedish study shows. The study suggests that calorie restriction, besides having the effect of slowing down ageing, may also be advantageous and valuable in relation to age-related hearing loss.

In the study, thirty-month-old rats were put on a 70% dietary restriction and were compared to rats that were fed ad libitum. The results showed that the female rats’ calorie restriction was beneficial to their auditory level.

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Coffee may reduce tinnitus

A moderate caffeine intake can be helpful in reducing the rate of tinnitus, an American study shows. The study found that women with a higher caffeine intake – mainly in the form of coffee - experienced lower rates of tinnitus.

Compared to women who consumed less than 150 milligrams of caffeine per day (one and a half cups of coffee), women who consumed 450-599 milligrams of caffeine per day reported 15% less incidence of tinnitus. This amount equals 4-6 cups of coffee.

Loud music damages the nerves in the brain

In a study from the UK, scientists have been able to identify damaged nerve cells as a result of noise exposure. Therefore, the study concludes that loud music on headphones has the same effect on the nerves as multiple sclerosis and causes hearing loss.

The research shows that noise levels above 110dB strip the insulation from nerve fibres which carry signals from the ear to the brain. Loss of this protective coating, called myelin, disrupts electrical nerve signals. The same process, this time due to an attack from the immune system, damages nerves in the brain and results in multiple sclerosis.

Smoking during pregnancy tied to hearing loss in teens

Smoking is another lifestyle factor that can have an effect on hearing. In this case, smoking during pregnancy can harm the hearing of the unborn child, a US study shows.

In a group of young adults, 16.2% had mothers who smoked while pregnant. These teenagers were at a higher risk of a significantly elevated hearing threshold at the 2 and 6 kHz levels, the study showed. One-in-six experienced a hearing loss in at least one ear compared to one-in-fourteen youngsters, who were not exposed to smoke in the womb.

Type 2 diabetics and hearing loss

Type 2 diabetes is a well known lifestyle disease and people who suffer from it are more inclined to develop hearing loss, a Canadian study shows.

Researchers have performed a systematic review and meta-analysis to study the association between type 2 diabetes and hearing loss. The results showed that the incidence of hearing loss, defined as the loss of pure tones of more than 25dB in the worst ear, was significantly higher in people with diabetes. The number varies from 44-69.7% for diabetics, compared to 20-48% for the non-diabetics.

The researchers can thereby conclude that the prevalence of moderate hearing loss is higher in patients with type 2 diabetes.

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