Stop Hearing Loss

Is there anything I can do to prevent my mild deafness from worsening as I age?

ROBERT ANDERSON, M.D., REPLIES: Yes. Researchers believe that as we age, cumulative exposure to everyday noise and occasional incidents of excessively loud noise damage delicate hearing cells to cause mild deafness. Fortunately, the following measures can slow, stabilize, or even reverse this process. Here's what to do:

Wear Ear Protection. Wear headphones or ear plugs whenever you may be exposed to more than 85 decibels of noise, like when you use a lawn mower or a chain saw, or attend a rock concert.

Make (and Take) Antioxidants. Large amounts of superoxide dismutase, an antioxidant, helped prevent noise-related hearing damage in animal experiments. Your body makes superoxide dismutase; to ensure that you produce enough, take 15 to 30 mg of zinc and 15 mg of manganese daily. Taking antioxidant supplements can also reduce the risk of noise-induced deafness, according to studies. Take 25,000 IU of mixed carotenoids, 5,000 to 10,000 IU of vitamin A (do not take more than 5,000 IU if you're pregnant or planning to be), 1 to 2 g of vitamin C, and 400 IU of natural vitamin E (d-alpha tocopherol) daily. The vitamin A and C doses are high because your body needs more of them when exposed to stress (like loud noise). Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) may also help stabilize hearing loss. Take 80 to 120 mg of ginkgo daily.

Nix Nutrient Deficiencies. People with age-related hearing impairment have been shown to have 40 percent lower levels of vitamin [B.sub.12] and 30 percent lower levels of folic acid compared to those with normal hearing. To stabilize hearing, take a daily B complex that has at least 400 mcg of [B.sub.12] and 400 mcg of folic acid. Studies have also connected a vitamin D deficiency with chronic hearing loss, so take 400 IU daily.

Cut Out Cow's Milk. Occasionally, I have found that partially deaf patients who completely avoided dairy products and other foods containing whey, like luncheon meats and puddings, returned their hearing to normal. Researchers found high amounts of a protein molecule identical to one in cow's milk in the cochleae (hearing organs) of 89 percent of patients with age-related hearing loss, while people with normal hearing had none, according to a 1994 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
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