By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.
Age-related hearing loss is common. Is it possible to slow it down or even stop it? What can you do about age-related hearing loss?
As a cardiologist who has treated thousands of elderly patients over the years, I have frequently encountered individuals with hearing loss along with their cardiovascular issues. Known as presbycusis, age-related hearing loss is the most common sensory disorder in the elderly population, affecting more than 36 million people.
According to the National Institutes of Health, here’s what is known about this type of aging issue:
- There is no known single cause. Changes in the inner ear sensory apparatus occur as we grow older.
- Contributing factors include family history of hearing loss, repeated exposure to loud noises, smoking, and diabetes.
- Hearing loss gets worse gradually over years.
- Symptoms include difficulty hearing people who are talking around you, asking people to repeat what they have said, certain sounds seeming to be overly loud, problems hearing in a noisy area, and ringing in the ear.
The conventional treatments for such hearing loss are hearing aids, telephone amplifiers, and cochlear implant surgery. The cochlea is a structure inside the ear that contains the receptor organ for hearing.
In my approach to patient health, I have always looked first for simple remedies and lifestyle changes. By doing so, I could often improve patient health and maybe avoid or postpone the use of pharmaceutical drugs and invasive surgery. A major tool in this approach is targeted nutritional supplements that may have special affinity for a specific problem.
There have been many studies looking at the role of nutritional status and supplementation in age-related hearing loss. The results indicate that better nutritional and antioxidant status may be able to reduce risk, which makes a lot of sense to me. So many people eat nutrient-poor diets, a habit that contributes to many health deficits and disorders.
Antioxidants are vitamins like vitamin C and beta carotene (a form of vitamin A) and natural compounds found in plants. The body also produces its own antioxidants. Their purpose is to counteract the oxidative damage to tissue generated by free radicals in the body, which becomes more pronounced as we age.
The protective effects of some antioxidant vitamins on hearing loss are well-established in animal studies but less so in human trials. In 2014, researchers from Korea, Canada, and the U.S. analyzed the intake among 2,600 individuals aged 20-69 and reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that beta carotene or vitamin C, in combination with magnesium, helped lower the risk of hearing loss.
Another study (Shargorodsky), in an ear, nose, and throat medical journal, found that vitamin C and beta carotene did not reduce the risk in adult men over 60. However, folic acid from food and supplements, might reduce the risk by about 20 percent, the researchers said. Folic acid, a member of the B complex vitamin family, is found in leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, beans (legumes), and whole grains. The findings were based on the 2004 medical records of more than 26,000 men (age 40 to 74) who had been participating in a database of health professionals since 1986.
The Sinatra Suggestion
I have not conducted any research on supplements and hearing loss, but would like to share with you my clinical experience. Over the years I have found that supplementation with CoQ10, magnesium, carnitine, and d-ribose could be particularly helpful. I call these specific nutraceuticals the “awesome foursome” because they have been so powerfully beneficial to patients with not only cardiovascular conditions but with a wide variety of age-related disorders as well.
Why are they so special? Because they supply the mitochondria, structures inside your cells that produce energy to keep the cells running. If the mitochondria are well-supplied, the cells run better. If they lack enough raw materials, the cells don’t function as well – they struggle because they don’t produce enough energy for maximum efficiency. That’s certainly true, as I have seen countless time, in regard to heart muscle cells that keep the heart pumping. I also believe this is true for all the cells of the body, including the sensory cells inside the ear that process sound.
In my practice, I have routinely used the awesome foursome for heart patients. This strategy is the basis of my metabolic cardiology approach documented in my book The Sinatra Solution. With it, I have routinely improved cardiac function of patients, as well as their overall health. The supplements don’t just rescue depleted heart cells, but depleted cells throughout the body. Thus, it has been no surprise to me that I have gotten positive feedback when patients have a parallel problem of hearing loss. The feedback was usually not from individual patients but from their spouses. “My husband (or my wife) is hearing better,” they would tell me, and “I don’t have to repeat myself as much. He isn’t always saying ‘what, what, what, what, when I talk to him.”
Researchers have identified mitochondrial dysfunction in age-related hearing loss and believe that damage from free radicals may play a “central role” in the aging process of cochlear cells. In a review of this evidence, investigators from the University of Wisconsin suggest that this deficit may be of “general relevance to age-related cell death” in multiple tissues, “providing an opportunity for a targeted therapeutic intervention in human aging.”
I think the researchers are correct in viewing mitochondrial dysfunction as a main ingredient in aging. My recommendation for a solution is the targeted therapeutic intervention is the awesome foursome. If you have an age-related hearing loss, or are experiencing any age-related slowdown, you have little to lose (except a small bit of cash) by starting a simple daily supplement routine as follows:
- A high-quality multi vitamin and mineral formula
- CoQ10, 100-200 milligrams
- Magnesium, 250-500 milligrams (in the form of magnesium glycinate or citrate, or as a broad-spectrum magnesium)
- Carnitine, 2-3 grams (in the form of L-carnitine, acetyl-L-carnitine, or a broad-spectrum carnitine)
- D-ribose, 5 grams (comes in powder or capsule) or 10-15 grams in divided doses if you have a cardiovascular condition.
- Alpha lipoic acid 200-250 mg
Along with these supplements, I always recommend a heart-friendly diet that emphasizes anti-inflammatory food choices.
Add avoidance of EMF from cellular and cordless phones– as tinnitus and hearing loss are major complications of long-term use.
- Federal Trade Commission. Buying a Hearing Aid: Consumer Information. FTC.gov, accessed May 9, 2014.
- Choi Y-H, Miller JM, et. al. Antioxidant vitamins and magnesium and the risk of hearing loss in the general U.S. population. Am J Clin Nutr. January 2014;99(1):148-155. [Abstract.]
- Shargorodsky J, Curhan SG, et. al. A prospective study of vitamin intake and the risk of hearing loss in men. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. February 2010;142(2):231-236. [Abstract.]
© 2014 HeartMD Institute. All rights reserved.