More Folate to Preserve Hearing?

Can getting more folate help to preserve hearing? A new study shows that this B vitamin could reduce the risk of needing a hearing aid. Shouldn’t you be getting more of it?

Age-related hearing loss, also known as presbycusis, affects most people at some point later in life. It occurs when the tiny hairs that line the inner ear are damaged which affects the ability to hear sounds. The natural changes associated with aging can gradually cause hearing loss, but genetics and too many rock concerts play a role too. The good news? A new study published in the Journal of Nutrition shows that getting more folate could help preserve hearing.

More Folate to Prevent Loss of Hearing?

Researchers at the University of Sydney looked at the records of almost 3,000 people over the age of fifty. They found that men and women with folate levels below 11 nanomoles per liter had a thirty-four percent greater risk of hearing loss compared to those with higher folate levels. They also looked at B12 levels and the risk of hearing loss, but found no association.

Homocysteine and the Risk of Hearing Loss

Interestingly, researchers also found that men and women with greater levels of the amino acid homocysteine (more than 20 micromoles per liter) in their blood had a greater risk of hearing loss than those with normal homocysteine levels. B vitamins, particularly folate and vitamin B12 help to lower levels of homocysteine, which could be one mechanism by which folate helps to preserve hearing.

High homocysteine levels have been correlated with a variety of diseases including heart disease, certain cancers, and Alzheimer’s dementia, although it’s not clear whether homocysteine actually causes these diseases or is simply a marker for people at high risk. It’s speculated that homocysteine may play an active role in hearing loss by reducing blood flow to the inner ear and, possibly, by increasing the formation of free radicals that can harm the inner ear.

This isn’t the first study to show that more folate may reduce the risk of hearing loss. A variety of small studies have shown folate’s benefits for preserving hearing. Other small studies show that supplementing with folate in amounts twice that in the normal multivitamin slowed down hearing declines with aging – although the benefits were seen for low frequency hearing loss, not higher frequencies.

Is More Folate From Supplements a Good Idea?

On the other hand, some studies have called into question the safety of taking supplemental folate – raising concerns that it could promote cancer growth – although other studies show a protective effect.

Because of concerns about getting folate through supplementation, the safest approach is to get more folate is naturally from, food sources. The best way to get more folate is to eat green, leafy vegetables, asparagus, broccoli, beans, lentils, and cauliflower. Making a conscientious effort to eat these foods daily can significantly raise folate levels and, hopefully, preserve hearing – naturally.

References: website. “Not Enough Folate May Quicken Hearing Loss: Study”

WebMd website. “Folic Acid May Slow Hearing Loss”

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