by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
According to an animal study at the University of Michigan, “a combination of high doses of vitamins A, C and E and magnesium, taken one hour before noise exposure and continued as a once-daily treatment for five days, was very effective at preventing permanent noise-induced hearing loss.” (1)
Here’s why researchers think this works. They feel that one of the major factors causing hearing loss from loud noise is excessive free radical activity. “Scientists have learned that noise-induced hearing loss occurs, in part, because cell mitochondria in the inner ear churn out damaging free radicals in response to loud sounds.”
Think of these free radicals as tiny enemy bullets. If they fatally damage a cell, it goes into a process called apotosis—in which the cell systematically shuts itself down and dies. If those cells are the hair cells in your inner ears, then you lose hearing when those hair cells die. Thus, it is important to zap the free radicals before they do their dastardly deeds.
The anti-oxidant vitamins are the “good guys”. They act as tiny missiles that shoot down the free radical bullets before they can cause any damage.
In addition to the vitamins A, C and E, your body makes a powerful antioxidant called glutathione. (This above study didn’t include glutathione, but it should have.) You see, “glutathione is considered the most powerful natural antioxidant there is. Your body makes this antioxidant naturally from compounds such as N-acetyl-cysteine and D-methionine which in turn are made from three amino acids-cysteine, glycine and glutamic acid. When your ears need extra help, taking N-acetyl-cysteine and D-methionine helps your body quickly make more glutathione.” (2)
“According to the researchers, pre-treatment [with vitamins A, C and E and magnesium] presumably reduced the free radicals that form during and after noise exposure, and noise-induced constriction of blood flow to the inner ear, and may have also reduced neural excitotoxicity, or the damage to auditory neurons that can occur due to over-stimulation. The post- noise nutrient doses apparently “scavenged” free radicals that continue to form long after this noise exposure ends.” (1)
That magnesium helps our ears is nothing new. Back in 2005 I wrote, “In addition, researchers now know that the mineral magnesium plays an important part in hearing. Scientists have found that a magnesium deficiency increases susceptibility to noise damage. One of the things that happens is the lack of magnesium causes the tiny blood vessels in your ears to constrict, thus depriving them of an adequate supply of oxygen. At the same time, loud noise depletes your ears of magnesium—so loud noise actually causes a double-whammy. There is evidence that high doses of magnesium taken soon after a sudden hearing loss can sometimes help restore hearing.” (2)
The University of Michigan has applied for patents covering the use of this combination of vitamins and minerals. However, you don’t have to take their patented formulation if you don’t want to. Just make sure you are taking adequate daily doses of vitamins A, C and E, and magnesium supplements, and you will get essentially the same protection.
You can get all of the above in almost any good health food store for a fraction of what you will likely have to pay for the patented formulations. Furthermore, when you get your own supplements, you can tailor the amounts you take of each supplement to fit your own body chemistry and lifestyle.
After having said all this, don’t be stupid and deliberately expose your ears to loud sounds thinking that you can always zap the free radicals with the various things named above. These nutrients help, but they don’t do a perfect job. You will likely still experience some degree of ear damage.
Thus, If you are around noisy machinery, use loud lawnmowers and leaf blowers, ride noisy recreational vehicles such as motorcycles and snowmobiles, go to loud sports venues or loud concerts, in addition to taking your vitamins and glutathione, etc., Wear ear protectors. The little foam ones available at most drugstores for a few bucks go a long ways towards protecting your ears from the results of excessive noise.
(1) “Nutrients might prevent hearing loss in war zones, concert halls & workplaces, new animal study suggests” by Anne Reuter, 2007. University of Michigan Health System.
(2) “Loud Music and Hearing Loss” by Neil Bauman, 2005.