How about a “morning after” pill for loud concerts? Researchers recently identified supplements so helpful at preventing and healing noise-induced hearing loss that we may very well see pills and snack foods marketed with that premise in the not-too-distant future. Long viewed as a hazard for people exposed to prolonged high-decibel sound (such as workers around jet engines or jackhammers, battlefield soldiers and rock stars), excess noise contributes to more than one-third of the 28 million Americans suffering from some degree of hearing loss.
RESEARCH RESULTS SOUND PROMISING
I spoke with scientist Colleen Le Prell, PhD, associate professor, department of communicative disorders, University of Florida in Gainesville, to find out more about the research her team recently conducted, which showed that a simple blend of common nutrients may help reduce hearing loss. In the study, four groups of guinea pigs were exposed to five hours of 120 decibel sound, which is as loud as a jet engine at takeoff. One hour before exposure, each group received either a nutrient blend or placebo. Thereafter, each group continued receiving the treatment regimen once daily for five days. One group was fed the synergistic blend of vitamins A, C and E with magnesium… a second group received magnesium alone… a third group was given A, C and E without magnesium and a fourth group received a placebo. The result: Using electrodes to test the animals’ threshold hearing sensitivity before and after noise exposure, the group receiving the blend of vitamins A, C and E with magnesium had significantly less hearing loss than any of the three other groups.
Why should these extremely common supplements make such a big difference in hearing protection? Loud noise causes the over-stimulation of inner ear sensory cells, which drives the production of free radicals even after noise exposure. The free radicals and a resulting constriction of blood flow ultimately damages the outer hair cells. The blend of vitamins A, C and E with magnesium binds with the free radicals in the inner ear, helping to prevent this damage.
YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST…
According to Dr. Le Prell, the upper limit for intake of vitamins A, C and E and magnesium has been well defined by the US Institute of Medicine (IOM), and should not be exceeded. As with any dietary supplement, moderation and supervision by a physician trained in natural medicine is important. Clinical trials to confirm safety and efficacy of this micronutrient blend for humans, at levels that adhere to IOM limits are underway and soon, says Dr. Le Prell, we may see products marketed to be taken around the time of noise exposure or daily as a preventive measure. For now though, Dr. Le Prell suggests checking with your physician to maintain (but do not exceed) recommended daily doses of vitamins A, C, E and magnesium — and turning down the volume.
Colleen Le Prell, PhD, department of communicative disorders, University of Florida, Gainesville.
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