This is an important article for all audiologists to better understand the relationship between dietary habits and hearing loss. It reports poor dietary habits plus noise exposure may lead to increased high frequency hearing loss. The literature review lays the groundwork for understanding that the ear is a part of a complex mechanism (the body) and should, therefore, not be viewed in isolation. The implication of this understanding is that audiologists must consider all aspects of the body, particularly metabolism, in trying to decipher causes, prevention, and treatment of hearing loss, tinnitus, and dizziness. The authors retrospectively reviewed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999-2002, using the Healthy Eating Index, correlated this data with low and high frequency tonal thresholds after controlling for age, sex, race / ethnicity, education, diabetes, hypertension, and smoking. From the population of 10,000 subjects, 2176 were included in the study. Significant differences were found between dietary habits and high frequency hearing loss. The major limitation of the study was that it was a cross sectional analysis; however, the size of the data pool is sufficient for useful conclusions. The conclusions are not entirely supported by histological evidence presented by Schuknecht that posited a flat audiogram as representative of a metabolic hearing loss. The literature review did not include research from the early 1980s that demonstrated audiometric improvements from nutritional supplementation for Meniere’s patients. Regardless of the weaknesses in the article, it should invite the audiologist to be proactive in learning how the ear is impacted by dietary habits so that more effective prevention and treatment options are developed. Effective hearing conservation is more than noise reduction or ear plugs and should include the entire spectrum of hearing health. 

Associations between dietary quality, noise, and hearing: Date from the National Health and Nutrition Examination survey, 1999-2002.
Spankovich C, Le Prell CG.
2014 Nov;53(11):796-809.
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Richard Navarro

Grapevine, USA.

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