Folic Acid Helps Prevent Hearing Loss in Men

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Folic acid may reduce the risk of hearing loss in men by 20 percent, according to researchers who presented their study at the 2009 American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery Foundation (AAO-HNSF) Annual Meeting in San Diego. Other nutrients, including the antioxidants vitamins C and E and beta-carotene, did not demonstrate any benefit regarding hearing loss.

Men are more likely to experience hearing loss than women, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). Overall, approximately 36 million American men and women (17 percent) report some degree of hearing loss.

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The study’s researchers used data from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study cohort from years 1986 to 2004, which included 51,529 male health professionals. In this population, the investigators identified 3,559 cases of hearing loss. They then evaluated the nutritional data and discovered that men older than 60 who had maintained a high folic acid (folate) intake had a 20 percent reduced risk of developing hearing loss. (Folate occurs naturally in food; folic acid is the synthetic form found in supplements and as a food additive.)

Although the new study did not find any benefit regarding hearing loss from the consumption of vitamins C and E and beta-carotene, results of a previous animal study suggest that these antioxidants, along with magnesium, may help prevent permanent noise-induced hearing loss. Another earlier study (2007) found that folic acid supplements delayed age-related hearing loss in men and women ages 50 to 70.

The Institute of Medicine’s daily Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for folate is 400 micrograms for both men and women ages 19 and older. As a possible hedge against hearing loss, men can reach their recommended RDA of folate through supplementation and/or eating food rich in the B vitamin, including green leafy vegetables, lentils, beans, and fortified cereals.

SOURCES:
Dobie RA. Annals of Internal Medicine 2007 Jan 2; 146(1): 63-64
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders
Shargorodsky J et al. “Vitamin Intake and Risk of Hearing Loss in Men,” presented at AAO-HNSF annual meeting October 2009

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