by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
A recent study in elderly people revealed that blood serum folate levels significantly correlate with high-frequency hearing loss in people over 60 years old. (1)
Lack of adequate folate levels seems to affect high-frequency hearing. (Incidentally, folate is the natural form, while folic acid is the synthetic form of Vitamin B9, one of the vitamin B complex.)
Those with normal high-frequency hearing had folate levels that were approximately one and a half times higher (148%) than those that had high-frequency hearing loss.
Unfortunately, as we age, our bodies do not absorb nutrients as well as they once did. This can leave us with deficiencies in various micro-nutrients.
Therefore, if you have high-frequency hearing loss, it would seem wise to have your folate levels checked, and if they are low, to supplement your diet to raise your folate levels. Foods high in folate include the deep green leafy vegetables (e.g. broccoli, asparagus, lima beans, spinach and kale), nuts and brewer’s yeast. (Brewer’s yeast is a great source of ALL the B vitamins—except vitamin B12—and more importantly, they are all in the right proportions to each other too!)
Note: Folate and Vitamin B12 work together, so supplementing one without the other is not a good idea. Furthermore, too much folic acid can mask the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency. This can lead to permanent nerve damage if the B12 deficiency is not corrected. (2)
“We need folate, but taking supplements made of the synthetic form (folic acid), even in doses as low as 400 micrograms (mcg), has been linked to several types of cancer. Also, certain common drugs—including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and some medications for inflammatory bowel disease—can interfere with the body’s ability to convert folic acid to folate.” (2)
Therefore, according to Dr. Galland, it is far better is to take 500 mcg a day of L-methyl folate, a form of folate that circulates in the blood and is therefore more physiologically accessible than taking folic acid. This is most particularly important for adults over the age of 50.
(1) Lasisi, Akeem. December, 2010. Age-related hearing loss, vitamin B12, and folate in the elderly. Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery. Volume 143, Issue 6, pp. 826-830.
(2) Vitamins, Who Needs Them? In: Bottom Line’s Daily Health News. December 27, 2010.