Is the usage of hearing aids the only approach to improve age-related hearing problems? Absolutely not! With age, our ability to hear properly diminishes. Many consider it as irreversible but this is not true as found out through various studies. No doubt, hearing aids are effective, however, the cost of buying and maintaining these devices can make a deep hole in your pocket. In short, these devices suck a lot of cash and hence, are unaffordable to many. Natural ways to sharpen hearing are inexpensive and moreover, can be instrumental in increasing your sense of hearing.
How to Improve Your Hearing Ability Naturally
Poor hearing ability with age has been associated with overexposure to noise and lack of proper diet. A healthy diet along with supplements could possibly have a positive impact on our hearing ability. Here are some ways to better your hearing ability.
Stay Away from Noise
The very first thing that we need to implement is to avoid staying in a noisy environment. Exposing ears to noise coming from any source is like assaulting the eardrum. The eardrum does not have any inbuilt mechanism to handle loud sound. So, if you are serious about boosting or maintaining your hearing ability, keeping a safe distance from the noise is very important. Wearing hearing protection devices such as ear muffs in an environment where noise levels are high, is another approach to prevent noise-induced hearing loss. Frequent usage of headphones to hear music also has to be avoided to improve and maintain functionality of eardrums.
Take Vitamin Supplements
Nutritional deficiency can be yet another factor responsible for causing age-related hearing problems. Clinical studies on rats suggest that a healthy diet can slow down age-related hearing problems. In the study, ear function of a group of rats was monitored till their death. The study that lasted for several months examined their ability to hear. During this period, one group of rats was put on dietary supplements (antioxidants) like vitamin C and E. Another group had no diet restrictions and could eat as per their choice.
The outcome of the study showed that age-related hearing problems were directly associated with free radical damage. Free radicals are unstable molecules that are released when our body makes use of carbohydrates to release energy. These unstable molecules are notorious for reducing the efficiency of different organs including the ears. The study also revealed that antioxidants play a crucial role in minimizing the impact of aging on hearing ability and a good nutrition may possibly provide protection from age-related hearing problems.
Buildup of earwax is one of the most common reasons of hearing loss in people of all ages. It is observed that people tend to ignore ear health and avoid cleaning the ear from time to time. The result - wax gets accumulated overtime and blocks our ability to hear properly. One can always remove the wax naturally and home remedies that involve use of hydrogen peroxide and olive oil are found to be useful in removing huge chunks of earwax. However, get the consent of a qualified ear specialist before trying any of these home remedies.
Exercises to Improve Hearing
Those wanting to sharpen their ears, need to do these simple exercises that can increase the hearing ability noticeably and even allow to correctly identify the direction from where the source of sound is coming.
Noise Filtering Technique
In the presence of noises from different sources, our ears manage to select the noise we want to hear and ignore the rest. The following exercise improves the ear's ability to filter noise and hear only the desired one. To start with, switch on the radio and play your favorite music station at moderate volume consistently. At the same time, strike a conversation on any topic with your friend. The music from the radio can be distracting but make sure you and your friend do not talk loudly or repeat the statements made during conversation.
Now, take another radio and turn it on with a different music station. This will act as a second noise source. Continue conversing with your friend in the same manner as mentioned above. You can include as many radios as you want depending upon your comfort level. Considering the music emanating from different radios, you may find it difficult to converse initially. However, eventually your ears will adapt to the surrounding environment and you will be able to grasp what is to be heard.
Sound Source Location Exercise
With this exercise, you can achieve two things. Firstly, an increase in hearing power and secondly, to exactly locate the sound source. For this exercise, it is necessary to have a noise producing device such as a horn. You can practice this exercise outdoors in an open environment or at your house in a large room. Let your friend hold the horn and you stand at the center of the place. Close your eyes and let your friend stand at least 5 m away from you. Now, tell your friend to gently honk the horn twice or thrice gently. Simply by hearing the faint sound, you should get a clear idea about the location source. In simple words, as soon as your friend honks, you must point out where he/she is standing.
What Studies Support
Vitamins and Magnesium
As we all know, noise pollution can also deteriorate the ability to hear. Animal studies on guinea pigs have revealed that a diet, which is a good source of antioxidants and minerals can be effective in safeguarding ear health against the damaging effects of noise pollution. To be specific, a powerful combination of vitamins and minerals that include vitamins A, C and E along with magnesium can reduce the adverse impact of noise on ear health.
When the ear is exposed to high noise levels, molecules develop in the ear and cause harm to the hair cells located in the inner ear. These tiny hair cells transfer sound to the inside nerves that send it to the brain for interpretation. Animal studies suggest that this blend of vitamins and magnesium may help to stop molecules from inducing damage.
Alpha-lipoic Acid (ALA) and Acetyl-L-Carnitine Supplements
Another animal study in which the participants were senior rats, showed that a group of antioxidants namely alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) and acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC) can assist to actually rectify age-related ear problems to a certain extent. The outcome of this research was in stark difference to other studies that merely suggested antioxidants like vitamins to be helpful for maintaining hearing health. ALA and ALC not only impeded free radical damage but actually improved hearing loss. So, can one say that ALC and ALA supplements do the job of restoring hearing loss? No! The study did not reveal any substantial improvement in the hearing ability of senior rats but the result definitely showed that the supplements could help to retain hearing power to some degree.
Hearing loss has also been linked to low aldosterone levels. Aldosterone is a hormone that plays a crucial role to maintain electrolytic balance in our body. This was evident when cases of age-related problems showed subjects to be suffering from low aldosterone levels. So, taking aldosterone supplements (in case of its deficiency) for a stipulated period of time can be a solution to enhance the ability to hear.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Studies also indicate that adequate consumption of omega-3 essential fatty acids (healthy fats) can help to minimize the chances of age-related hearing loss. Research conducted in 2007 by scientists from Wageningen University also found out that taking folic acid supplements can be instrumental in postponing age-related hearing loss.
Coenzyme Q10 Supplements
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) supplements may also come to the rescue of patients diagnosed with hearing problems. Basically, CoQ10, a chemical compound acts as an antioxidant and is produced in our body. It supports healthy functioning of the cells and helps in conversion of fat into energy. Both human and animal studies have found water-soluble CoQ10 to be successful in alleviating age-related hearing loss.
There also have been reports of CoQ10 supplements improving hearing loss in people suffering from acute sudden deafness. In one study, patients with tinnitus (a condition that is typically marked by ringing or hissing sensation despite no noise from the surrounding environment) also responded to CoQ10 supplements. Doctors opine that due to its antioxidant activity, CoQ10 helps to repair damaged tiny hair cells resulting from free radical damage. This in turn improves age-related hearing impairments.
One study also demonstrated that age-induced hearing problems is due to poor glutathione concentration in the auditory nerve. The sound waves from the inner ear to the brain are transported by the auditory nerve. The nutrient, glutathione displays antioxidant properties and is synthesized in our body. With increasing age, glutathione levels may drop by 85% in the auditory nerve, as revealed through the study. So, increasing glutathione levels by taking it in supplemental form may help to improve hearing ability.
Keep in mind that improving hearing loss naturally comes into picture only when the cause is related to age or noise. For an ear injury or an infection that induces hearing loss, one has to consult an ENT specialist and follow his instructions to the word to improve the sense of sound. Although animals studies indicate the effectiveness of antioxidants and minerals, extensive human studies have not been done to support these claims. Only a handful of human studies show the results observed in laboratory tests. Hence, it is best to leave it to the doctor when it comes to deciding supplements necessary for age-related hearing problems.