Caring for Your Ears

If it seems like someone turned down the volume a couple of decibels, don’t panic. Just try one of these little-known tricks to stave off hearing problems.

Get Exercise

Now, this is something we know your doctor doesn’t know-but the more physically active you are, the better your hearing is likely to be! Why? Because aerobic activity such as biking and walking brings more oxygen into your lungs, which increases blood flow throughout your body (including your ears). That, in turn, improves your hearing! At least, that’s what we hear from researchers.

Eat Avocado

Mmm, like eating solid butter-but oh, so much better for you! The green fruit is rich in magnesium, a mineral that helps protect your hearing from noise-related hearing loss. Just make sure the fruit is uniformly dark when you buy it and yields slightly-but not too much-when you press on it. You can store a ripe avocado in the fridge for two or three days.

Secret Weapon: Earplugs

You don’t have to have spent your youth following the Grateful Dead around to damage your hearing with loud noises. The noises of everyday life-lawn mower, leaf blowers, cars backfiring, even the ubiquitous iPods attached to everyone’s ears these days-are more than enough. So get a few pairs of earplugs, scatter them around the house, in your car and purse, and use them to turn down the volume of your world.

Down Some Wine

Okay, when’s the last time your doctor told you to drink? Probably never, even though everyone, particularly Morley Safer of 60 Minutes, knows that wine is good for your heart. But even Morley probably doesn’t know it’s also good for your ears. That’s what researchers evaluating 3,000 people in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, found. Just one to three glasses of wine or beer a day could actually protect against age-related hearing loss. Stop right there, though. Once you hit four or more servings of booze, not only do you have a drinking problem, but you may be contributing to hearing loss.

Dental Care is Key

Trust us, you want to keep your original teeth. The more teeth you have, it seems, the better your hearing as you age. That’s what researchers found when they compared dental health and hearing loss in more than 1,000 veterans (why they thought to link the two, no one knows). Every tooth you lose more than doubles your risk of hearing loss. Scientists aren’t sure why, but suspect it has something to do with the position of the jaw or maybe lack of muscle activity that affects the auditory tube. Regardless, brush and floss twice a day!

Beware of Snoring

While your doctor may warn you about obvious loud noises like gunshots and lawn mowers, you may never hear about the dangerous effects of snoring on your hearing. Yes, snoring. Research shows that the sound of snoring can be louder decibel-wise than the sound of city traffic. And any loud noise damages your ears over time. After proving to your partner that yes, he or she does indeed snore-a tape recorder may help-suggest a visit to a sleep center. Snoring can be a sign of sleep apnea, a breathing disorder that could lead to heart disease.

Get Some Ginkgo Biloba  

If you have a doctor who recommends herbal supplements as part of a healthy life, good for you. The rest of us buy books like this. Because it’s a rare doctor who’s going to recommend ginkgo biloba for your hearing. Yet several European studies find that the herb improves hearing, even restoring hearing suddenly lost. One study compared it to the drug pentoxifylline, used to increase blood flow in cases of sudden hearing loss, and found the herb worked better than the drug! Take between 12 and 120 milligrams twice a day, depending on the extent of your hearing loss.

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