Could common dietary supplements fight hearing loss?

Sep 5, 2023 | Blog, Quiet Coalition

Photo credit: Polina Tankilevitch

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Could common dietary supplements fight hearing loss? That’s the question raised in a report on the SciTech Daily site, discussing an article in PLOS Biology.

The research, done by scientists in Argentina, found that cholesterol levels in the inner ear were reduced with age. They found that dietary supplementation with phytosterols, plant sterols with structure and function similar to cholesterol, was able to prevent auditory damage by an ototoxic drug. However, a diet high in cholesterol won’t have the same effect because lipoprotein-bound cholesterol in the blood doesn’t cross the blood-brain barrier.

The relevance of this research to humans has yet to be established, but it’s interesting. Decades of research show that a plant-based diet is good for humans, as is a largely plant-based Mediterranean diet. A plant-based diet is also better for the planet.

My only quibble with the research is the use of the term “age-related hearing loss.” My analysis of the literature shows that without noise exposure there is only minimal hearing loss with age, and the hearing loss found in older people in industrialized societies is largely caused by noise exposure.

Age-related hearing loss (also called presbycusis) should be called sociocusis, or better yet, noise-induced hearing loss in the elderly. Avoid noise exposure and your ears will last a lifetime. And, a plant-based diet should help you live longer and might help your ears last longer, too.

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