“Dad, I’m sure Law and Order is a wonderful show, but can you please turn the TV down?”
A sentence that I seemed to repeat often when I visited my parents over the Christmas break.
And you may have noticed something similar in your own family.
Maybe your elderly family members have a more difficult time hearing what you say to them, and you have to speak to them slightly louder than you’re used to.
It’s not your imagination. Our hearing ability does, in fact, decrease with age for a variety of reasons.
But there may be some encouraging news. Recent research has shed light on things we can do to potentially protect our hearing as we age.
In this article, I’ll explain a little more about hearing loss, why it happens, and some natural supplements that might be able to prevent it.
That way, you won’t have to annoy your kids if you want to enjoy a good crime drama when you’re older (Sorry, Dad!).
How common is hearing loss?
As you can imagine, age is a significant predictor of hearing loss. Meaning, the older you get, the more likely you are to experience symptoms of hearing loss.
In the United States, about 2-3 out of 1000 children are born with some hearing loss in one or both of their ears.
That number gradually goes up with age, and by the time we hit 50, there’s a 2 percent chance that we’ll experience some sort of disabling hearing loss. And seniors who are over 75 have a 50 percent chance of having a hearing loss that is considered to be a disability.
What are some common symptoms of hearing loss?
The symptoms vary pretty widely depending on the level of damage to the ears.
For most people, it’s a mild case of hearing loss. Maybe they can’t understand every word you say clearly, especially if there is background noise. And of course, watch the TV too loud!
For some, it’s worse, and they might ask you to repeat yourself several times. And for others, it can get severe to the point where they need hearing aids, or even cochlear implants (tubes in the ear).
Another symptom of damage to your ears is tinnitus. You hear ringing or hissing sounds in your ears. It can happen at any age, depending on your job and lifestyle factors. Around 10 percent of Americans experience tinnitus that lasts for 5 minutes or longer.
What causes hearing loss?
As I already explained, your risk of hearing loss goes up significantly with age.
But it’s not only age. It seems to be the fact that anyone with prolonged exposure to loud noises is at a higher risk of hearing loss.
That includes musicians, construction workers, people working in loud factories, soldiers in combat situations, and more. According to the CDC, more than 22 million Americans are exposed to loud noises on the job.
For the older folks, it simply might be the case that they’ve just been exposed to noise longer than others, increasing their risk.
But why is it that exposure to noise makes it more likely that you’ll have hearing loss?
It might have to do with something called sirtuin 3 (SIRT3) protein.
What on earth is a sirtuin 3 (SIRT3) protein?!
Now, bear with me. I’m only bringing this up because it will help you better understand how certain vitamin supplements may work to protect your hearing later on.
So, protein isn’t just the thing you eat when you want toned abs. There are a ton of different proteins throughout your body involved in all kinds of functions.
SIRT 3 is one of those proteins, and it is involved in the function of the mitochondria, which is kind of like the engine of the cell.
Ok, that’s enough biology for now. Let’s get back to the point. What does any of this have to do with hearing loss?
Research on animals has shown that SIRT3 plays a role in how well the nerves function in your inner ears, which has an effect on your hearing ability.
As we age, our SIRT3 decreases with prolonged exposure to noise, which could be one of the causes of age-related hearing loss.
This finding also provides clues as to how we could potentially prevent some hearing loss with supplements, as I will explain later.
Other triggers of hearing loss
Besides noise, other things can also trigger hearing loss.
Turns out, there are a whole bunch of medicines out there that can cause hearing loss. Apparently, it’s among those long list of side effects you hear after drug commercials, that you probably don’t pay attention to.
These medications can also disturbances in your inner-ear, which helps you stay balanced.
Here are a few examples of medications that can trigger hearing problems.
- Certain antibiotics
- Chemotherapy medicines
- Erectile dysfunction medicine
Of course, medications like antibiotics or chemotherapy drugs can be life-saving. In those cases, hearing loss is an unfortunate side effect that many people have to accept.
I’m in no way suggesting that you shouldn’t take these drugs if necessary.
But it’s good to know that the can carry the risk of hearing loss, so you can discuss options with your doctor. And, maybe even try natural remedies like diet and supplements to boost ear health.
Underlying medical conditions
If you have heart problems, high blood pressure, or even diabetes, these things can mess with your blood supply to the ears. And you may experience hearing loss.
Also, diseases that affect your inner ear can cause hearing loss.
Trauma, meaning physical damage to the ear or the skull can trigger hearing loss.
Ear infections or excess ear wax can block ear canals and affect your hearing. But the situation usually remedies itself when you recover from the infection. Or when you get your ears cleaned by your ENT doctor.
What are some common treatments for hearing loss?
Treatments for hearing loss can vary a lot depending on the cause and severity of your condition. Here are some of the standard treatment options available today.
I know I just said that medications can cause hearing loss. But in some cases, they can also help. The hearing loss from medications occur typically after prolonged usage, not if it’s a one-time thing.
If it’s a bacterial ear infection causing temporary hearing loss, you can clear that up with some antibiotics. Of course, in this case, your ENT specialist will recommend whatever they think is appropriate.
For the elderly, or for those with more permanent hearing loss, doctors often recommend hearing aids. You might have seen people wearing these devices around their ears. They make things sound louder to help someone with hearing loss.
In some cases, like if hearing loss is caused by scar tissue, surgery can restore hearing ability. Cochlear implants can also be an option.
Can vitamins prevent hearing loss?
For most people, age-related hearing loss gets to a point where it can’t be reversed with surgery or medications. So, the treatment typically focuses on managing hearing loss with things like hearing aids.
Although hearing aids can be helpful, for most people, it’s not the ideal solution. They want to retain their natural ability to hear sounds around them.
And that’s where new research has shown some promising signs.
Remember the SIRT3 protein we discussed above?
Turns out, certain vitamins can target and increase the activity of SIRT3 proteins even as we age (one of the causes of age-related hearing loss is that over time, we lose SIRT3, which helps the nerve cells in your ears).
Research on vitamins and hearing loss
Researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College in New York conducted a study to learn about the effects of a supplement on mice with hearing loss. They published their findings in the journal of Cell Metabolism.
If you’re super into scientific stuff, you can check out the full research paper here.
The researchers were looking to learn more about the effects of a specific chemical, nicotinamide riboside (NR).
They found that NR helped prevent noise-induced hearing loss in the mice. What’s when they gave NR to mice who already had some hearing loss because of noise, NR was able to reverse some of that lost hearing ability.
How does nicotinamide riboside (NR) prevent hearing loss?
Without getting too technical, here’s what happens.
Nicotinamide riboside (NR) boosts a molecule known as NAD+. Recently, NAD has been gaining prominence because of its tremendous potential in the field of anti-aging.
NAD plays an essential role in a lot of human functions, including how your heart, brain, and skeletal muscles age.
But for hearing loss, NAD plays a vital role in the activation of the SIRT3 protein.
So, when NR boosts NAD, it indirectly causes greater activation of SIRT3. And as explained above, SIRT3 is involved in how well the nerve cells function in your ears, and ultimately, how well you can hear things.
Supplementation for hearing loss
If that was a lot, don’t worry. All you need to know is that higher levels of NAD can potentially prevent hearing loss.
So, now the question becomes, how do you boost NAD? If you noticed something in the Weill study, the researchers used an NR supplement to boost NAD. Instead of using an NAD supplement directly.
That’s because NAD is what they call an “unstable” compound, and the researchers weren’t sure if it could be used on a live animal. So, they went with NR, which is a stable compound that naturally boosts NAD.
So, if you were looking to boost NAD, you should also look for a nicotinamide riboside (NR) supplement.
Thorne Research is a leader when it comes to trusted supplement brands. They are often recommended by medical professionals, and they are partnered with many of the U.S. National Sports Teams.
One of their most popular supplements is the ResveraCel with Nicotinamide Riboside.
ReservaCel combines NR with other ingredients like resveratrol and cofactors to optimize effectiveness and absorption.
Boost NAD with a healthy, well balanced diet
Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet will support your body with essential nutrients so it can continue functioning optimally. And that includes things like the health of your ear, eyes, nose, etc.
To boost NAD through diet, eat a lot of green vegetables like broccoli, kale, and spinach. Avocado is a good source also.
Also include organic dairy, chicken, and seafood like sardines, tuna, and salmon, all of which are excellent sources of NAD.
Final thoughts on hearing loss and supplements
For approximately half the population, hearing loss is just a part of life as we get older.
And it feels like that number will only go higher. I know that I have my earphones plugged in pretty much all day long, whether it’s my commute to and from work, when I’m sitting at my desk working, or when I’m blasting music to help me get through a workout after a long day.
I also know I’m not the only one. And the long-term effects can’t be great on the nerve cells in our ears.
With that in mind, it becomes super important that we take steps to protect our hearing.
Try to be mindful of your headphone usage. Maybe turn down the volume just a bit when you’re listening to music. If you work around a lot of noise, consider using earplugs.
And although the research is still in early phases, the evidence around nicotinamide riboside seems encouraging.
For an extra boost to protect your ears from age-related hearing loss (and potentially other parts of your body), talk to your doctor about if an Nicotinamide Riboside supplement could be right for you.