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Natural Strategies for Preventing Hearing Loss

November 2007

How Weight Harms Hearing

How is obesity or excess weight related to hearing? Although that subject is only beginning to be studied, Swedish researchers did find a connection recently. They followed nearly three hundred Swedish women over a twenty-four-year period. Using various data, including physical exams and brain scans, they found the first evidence that those with a high body mass index (BMI) throughout adult life had lost brain tissue when compared to women with lower BMIs. Loss of brain tissue occurred in the temporal lobe portion of the brain, where the auditory system is located, along with language, speech, memory, and comprehension.13

Why would weight affect the brain? There are three possible answers to that question. One, excess weight could increase the number of damaging free radicals in the body. Two, fat may produce harmful substances, such as growth factors and hormones, which can erode brain tissue. And three, excess fat might be responsible for hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) and result in limited oxygen flow to the brain.

Another connection between obesity and hearing loss is suggested by recent findings from Great Britain linking excess weight with accelerated aging. In a study involving more than eleven hundred women, scientists found that obesity had a greater effect on markers of aging than smoking. Among women who were obese, the markers showed signs of aging that were the equivalent of nearly nine years beyond those who were lean. Not surprisingly, being overweight or obese increases freeradical levels in the body, which the experts believe to be the reason more signs of aging were seen in those of excess weight.14

The Optimal Form of Alpha-Lipoic Acid

Individuals who wish to use nutritional strategies to protect their hearing will want to use the most potent form of alpha-lipoic acid available today. Alpha-lipoic acid consists of two forms (“R” and “S” isomers) that have very different properties. Of these two forms, the “R” isomer is the more biologically active component that is responsible for exerting the compound’s antioxidant effects. Most alpha-lipoic acid supplements contain both the R and S forms in a 50/50 ratio, which means they deliver only 50% of the biologically active R form.

Furthermore, studies have highlighted the greater potency of a supercharged R-lipoic acid, called R-dihydrolipoic acid,15,16 which is now also available as a supplement. This is the form of R-lipoic acid that is most readily available to cells and tissues as it does not need to undergo any chemical reduction in the body.

Given the enhanced effectiveness of R-lipoic acid and R-dihydrolipoic acid, only half the dose of each is needed to provide the same biological activity as higher amounts of conventional alpha-lipoic acid.

—Elizabeth Wagner, ND
—Bina Singh

How Drugs Damage Hearing

Good nutrition and moderate physical activity have repeatedly been shown to improve symptoms in a host of conditions that are typically treated with pharmaceuticals, including depression, anxiety, arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Some people find that making lifestyle changes allows them to use less medication, while others are able to work with their physician to gradually eliminate drugs completely. It is a little known fact that many commonly prescribed drugs are ototoxic, or damaging to hearing. There are hundreds of ototoxic drugs, including popular nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like aspirin, as well as some antidepressant and antianxiety drugs, to name a few. Typically, people taking these medications have no idea that their hearing could be affected. Moreover, since the hearing loss may not appear until months after beginning the medication, the connection is far from obvious. The medication is rarely suspected to be the source of the problem, and every prescription refill continues the hearing damage.

A younger person may have more resistance to drugs that damage hearing, and is more likely to be taking only one or two medications at a time. Increasingly, though, older people are prescribed multiple remedies for a host of ailments that occur later in life. Often, these medications are prescribed by different doctors, who may not be aware of the total number of medications the patient is taking. The compound effect of taking multiple drugs—and its impact on hearing— are completely unknown. But certainly, if an individual is taking more than one ototoxic medication— and one is all it takes to damage hearing— we can assume the results are not going to be good.

Popular Drugs and Hearing Damage

Literally hundreds of drugs can affect the ability to hear, including popular nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like aspirin. In many cases, large doses or abuse of a drug can cause hearing loss, but when the same medication is taken as prescribed, it does not harm hearing. In normal doses, aspirin, for example, is considered safe, but those individuals who believe that “more is better” may be risking their hearing.

Other commonly prescribed drugs that affect hearing are:

  • Antibiotics, including those classified as aminoglycosides (gentamicin, streptomycin, neomycin), macrolides (erythromycin, azithromycin), and vancomycin
  • Loop diuretics (also known as furosemide or Lasix), which reduce the amount of fluid accumulating in the tissues
  • Chemotherapeutic agents (oxaliplatin, cisplatin, carboplatin) used to treat various types of cancer
  • Quinine-based antimalarial drugs
  • Salicylate analgesics (large doses of aspirin)
  • The pain reliever naproxen sodium (Naprosyn, Aleve), ibuprofen, and many other NSAIDs
  • Some antidepressant and antianxiety medications

Keep in mind that hearing loss is not the only effect these substances may have on the auditory system. Tinnitus and problems with balance may also occur. In fact, individuals with tinnitus should be certain their physician is aware of their condition and request prescriptions that will not make the condition worse. Drugrelated hearing loss, as well as tinnitus and balance problems, may be temporary or permanent, depending on a number of factors, such as dosage and length of time the drug is taken.

What This Means to Us Humans

The research my colleagues and I have done, which has been thoroughly reviewed by other experts and published in leading medical journals, clearly demonstrates that we can slow the progression of―and in some cases, reverse―hearing loss with natural substances found in food and supplements. The Save Your Hearing Now Program is designed to do just that. Scientifically proven antioxidant supplements and nutrients to enhance mitochondrial function are the program’s foundation. A Mediterranean-style meal plan, based on research showing the benefits of a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and good fats, enhances the supplements’ work by providing additional nutrients. Physical activity, meanwhile, stimulates circulation, which relays nutrients throughout the auditory system, as well as the rest of the body.

The proof that the program works has been amply demonstrated for me by the success stories I’ve heard from hundreds of patients. After so many people described how their lives changed—especially those who were skeptical to begin with—it became quite clear that hearing loss can be halted and sometimes corrected through the use of appropriate nutrients and lifestyle changes. And hearing isn’t the only thing that is affected. A large number of patients report that their stress and anxiety levels plummeted once they discovered that they didn’t have to worry about suffering further hearing loss or becoming completely deaf. Better hearing means better quality of life, and this program has been developed to provide just that.

From the book “Save Your Hearing Now” by Michael D. Seidman, MD, FACS and Marie Moneysmith. Copyright © 2007 by Michael D. Seidman, MD, FACS and Marie Moneysmith. Reprinted by permission of Grand Central Publishing, New York, NY. All rights reserved.

The Save Your Hearing Now Program’s Top Ten Nutrients

The foundation rests on four substances, alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) and acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC), the two compounds that were the focus of my earliest research on hearing loss prevention and nutrients—and two other potent antioxidants, coenzyme Q10 and glutathione. In combination, these four compounds deliver state-of-the-art protection for the auditory system. An additional six other nutrients round out the program.

The complete Save Your Hearing Now Top Ten list:

  1. ALA: A powerful and versatile antioxidant, ALA is capable of counteracting the type of free-radical damage that harms the auditory system. Recommended dosage: 100 to 750 mg per day

  2. ALC: This compound is important for the proper functioning of the mitochondria, as well as supporting a healthy nervous system and brain, where much of the auditory system is located. Recommended dosage: 500 to 3,000 mg per day

  3. Glutathione: A key element in preventing free-radical damage that can harm hearing, glutathione also minimizes the effects of various pollutants. Recommended dosage: 30 to 300 mg per day

  4. Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10): This vitally important antioxidant protects the mitochondria—and therefore hearing—and also plays a role in the production of cellular energy. Recommended dosage: 60 to 320 mg per day

  5. Vitamin B complex: A family of nutrients that perform literally hundreds of tasks in the body, vitamin B has a special affinity for the nervous system and hearing. Recommended dosage: a balanced formula containing the entire family in appropriate amounts

  6. Lecithin: This substance is essential for healthy cell membranes, and my own research has shown that it protects against age-related hearing loss. Recommended dosage: 200 to 1,500 mg per day

  7. N-acetylcysteine (NAC): An amino acid known best for its ability to detoxify, NAC has also been shown to repair damaged hair cells of the inner ear. Recommended dosage: 100 to 2,500 mg per day

  8. Quercetin: A bioflavonoid found in fruits and vegetables, quercetin has antioxidant properties that make it a powerful antidote to free-radical damage that can destroy hearing. Recommended dosage: 30 to 500 mg per day

  9. Resveratrol: This compound, found in red wine, grape juice, and grapes, is considered a potent antiaging weapon and protects against damage from noise exposure. Recommended dosage: 40 to 1,000 mg per day

  10. Zinc: The mineral zinc is an important antioxidant involved in hundreds of processes throughout the body, including support of the immune system. The highest concentrations of zinc are found in the inner ear and in the eye, and it is involved in hearing. Recommended dosage: 15 to 75 mg per day

For best absorption, these supplements should be taken with food and at least eight ounces of water. I recommend separating the daily dose you choose into two or three portions—whatever works best for you—so that your cells are nourished throughout the day.

Editor’s note: These nutritional recommendations are excerpted from Dr. Seidman’s program outlined in Save Your Hearing Now.


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