Hearing loss may be linked to lack of magnesium and calcium
Our risk of hearing loss increases as we grow older, and the nutrients in our diet appear to play a major role. According to a population study published in Frontiers in Nutrition, magnesium and calcium in the right amounts can lower the risk of age-related hearing loss. Apparently, different mechanisms and interactions between the two minerals can prevent impaired hearing.
Around 350 million people worldwide are believed to suffer from permanent hearing loss, a condition where you have impaired hearing on one or both ears. Age-related hearing loss normally starts as gradual loss of the ability to hear high frequencies. Later, the ability to hear low-frequent sounds such as a male voice or the bass in music is lost. Several studies have demonstrated that more than half of people aged 70 years or older suffer from hearing loss. Smoking and exposure to noisy environments can increase the risk.
Nutritional status and hearing loss
In the past years, science has become aware that sufficient intake of nutrients can help prevent or mitigate hearing loss. Several studies have shown that minerals like magnesium and calcium have an isolated effect. The purpose of the new study was to compare older people’s intake of these two minerals and their risk of hearing loss. The scientists gathered data from a large American population study called NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey). They included 1,858 people aged 70 years and older. A total of 1,052 participants (56%) had low-frequent hearing loss, while 1,349 (73%) had difficulty with hearing regular conversation. The participants’ intake of calcium, magnesium, vitamin C, and vitamin E from diet, beverages, and supplements was evaluated by means of information stored in the FNDDS database (Food and Nutrient Database for Dietary Studies). They found that the combination of a substantial amount of calcium (≥ 1.044 mg) and magnesium (≥ 330 mg) was linked to a lower risk of low-frequency and speech-frequency hearing loss.
How do interactions between calcium and magnesium affect hearing?
According to the authors, this is the first study that looks at the relation between calcium and magnesium and the risk of hearing loss in senior life. There is still uncertainty about the underlying mechanism but the researchers have different theories. It is commonly known that magnesium regulates calcium uptake in the cells. This function ensures that the lion’s share of calcium is embedded in hard tissue like bones, while only a small amount of calcium is channeled into cells in the soft tissues. This mechanism prevents calcium ions from flooding soft tissue cells, which would otherwise cause them to become overactive and stressed. Calcium flooding of soft tissue cells can trigger inflammatory conditions and oxidative stress where free radicals harm cells and tissues. By preventing this calcium flooding, the authors explain, magnesium helps protect the sensory hair cells and the blood vessel constriction that may follow in the wake of this. Magnesium is essentially an effective calcium channel blocker that makes sure the calcium is distributed correctly in the different tissues. This study concludes that a diet with plenty of calcium and magnesium lowers the risk of hearing loss in older people, but the authors call for further studies of the subject.
Xinmin Wei. Dietary magnesium and calcium intake is associated with lower risk of hearing loss in older adults: A cross-sectional study of NHANES. Frontiers in Nutrition. 2023.
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