A plate of healthy foods that can prevent or reduce hearing loss..

Does what eat count when it comes to protecting your hearing? One thing doctors know for sure is that nutrition is critical for just about everything to do with health including your hearing. The truth is the most effective way to safeguard your hearing is to be conscious of noise hazards like the headphones you wear to listen to music or loud environmental sounds you can’t control like a jackhammer or traffic.

If you already protect your ears from loud noises then it’s time to shift your focus to other proactive lifestyle choices like diet and exercise. What foods do you want on your plate for better hearing health?

Get Some Omega-3

Omega-3 fatty acids are a good dietary addition for just about every function in your body including your hearing. Scientists from the University of Sydney state in a 2010 paper published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that adding just two helpings of oily fish — a common source of omega-3 fatty acids — every week lowers your risk of age-related hearing loss by up to 42 percent.

That’s just one of a number of good reasons to include fatty acids in your diet, though. Omega-3 is connected to the reduction of blood triglycerides, it reduces the risk of dementia and is the right choice for better heart health. Now, we can add hearing to the list too.

Fish is a good source of this critical element but be careful what kind of fish you choose. Look for wild salmon, tuna or sardines if you want more omega-3 fatty acid.

Folate

Folate is a type of folic acid, one that is often given to women expecting a baby to help prevent neural tube defects during gestation. Folic acid is also listed on the World Health Association’s List of Essential Medicines. At least one study indicates that taking folate will reduce the risk of age-related hearing loss by as much as 35 percent.

The recommended daily intake of folate is 400 micrograms, and the food is always the best source. You’ll find folate in those green leafy vegetables, the dark ones, like spinach or kale, along with beans and in black-eyed peas.

Potassium

Potassium plays an important role in the balancing of specific metabolic processes such as fluid levels and that makes it critical for good hearing, too. The inner ear is where you’ll find the cochlea, a bony labyrinth that is filled with fluid. As sound enters your ear, the fluid vibrates. Those vibrations are what move the hair cells so they send electrical messages the brain can translate into sound.

Clearly, having the right balance of fluid in the inner ear is necessary for effective hearing. In fact, the current theory about conditions that affect what you hear like Meniere’s disease relates directly to this fluid balance. A change in fluid levels might also be a factor in the age-related hearing loss, so add some potatoes, spinach, bananas or yogurt to your daily diet to ensure you get the potassium you need.

Zinc

Zinc is another one of those minerals that make a difference when it comes to your health, especially in the fight against infection. How much zinc you get matters, though. Too much is has negative consequences. The recommended dosage for zinc is around 11 mg per day for adults.

Just enough zinc each day will help reduce the risk of the ear infections. They can interfere with your hearing and may damage the delicate mechanisms of the ear. Zinc also improves wound healing, including the ones inside the ear canal after an infection.

There is some indication that zinc intake helps those with tinnitus, too. Tinnitus is the ringing that some people hear when there is a change in their hearing. Not everyone hears ringing, though. Some individuals with tinnitus complain of wind blowing or clicking noises in their ears. More evidence is needed to prove that zinc is effective in the treatment of tinnitus, however, but it can’t hurt.

Foods rich in zinc include beef, nuts, and beans. You can even get it in dark chocolate, so go ahead and add a tasty treat to that plate for more zinc.

Good healthy habits like a balanced diet and exercise are also the right choice to lower the risk of chronic illnesses like high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. Having any one of those conditions increases your odds of age-related hearing loss. Add the direct benefit eating certain foods has on ear health, why wouldn’t you get picky about what you put on your plate?