Home Remedies For Hearing Loss

Hearing loss from age, noise, and even drugs is caused by oxidative stress. That’s why researchers are really excited to test supplements (many low-cost supplements are antioxidants, which have the potential to absorb or prevent oxidative stress).

However, it would take years of testing to prove that a supplement might work to treat hearing loss because of the slow nature of the condition. And, of course, it takes time in studies to prove that a supplement (or drug) can actually prevent a condition. Regardless, there’s just not enough funding to do such a long trial of dietary supplements unless a researcher is willing to champion this cause (hint, hint!).

Much like the wear and tear on your joints that causes osteoarthritis, intense exposure to sound causes wear and tear on the hair cells in your inner ear that pick up sound wave vibrations and convert them to nerve impulses. These impulses travel to the brain via the auditory nerve and are then interpreted as sound.

Listening to your favorite singer with the volume turned up full blast can cause permanent damage. Turning the volume down and using earplugs around loud noises (like at a rock concert or a University of Michigan football game) are easy ways to prevent damage. When it comes to supplements for hearing loss, I always look for ones that have been tested in a setting with lots of noise, like in military studies.

What is Hearing Loss?

Hearing loss that occurs gradually as you age (presbycusis) is common. Almost half the people in the United States older than age 65 have some degree of hearing loss.

Hearing loss is defined as one of three types:

  • Conductive (involves outer or middle ear)
  • Sensorineural (involves inner ear)
  • Mixed (combination of the two)

Aging and chronic exposure to loud noises both contribute to hearing loss. Other factors, such as excessive earwax, can temporarily reduce how well your ears conduct sounds.

You can’t reverse most types of hearing loss. However, you and your doctor or a hearing specialist can take steps to improve what you hear.

Home Remedies For Hearing Loss

Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) and NAC (N-acetylcysteine)

In animal models, ALA has been shown to protect against both age-related hearing loss and chemotherapy-induced hearing loss. It is a cofactor in cellular enzymes and a free-radical scavenger that could increase levels of protective compounds in the ear (such as vitamins E and C and glutathione). A preliminary study in humans showed a 10-day course of 600 milligrams of ALA daily could protect the inner ear from trauma; it improved both subjective and objective hearing measures. Although ALA can dramatically increase levels of the antioxidant glutathione in the body, the supplement NAC is even better at it. 

There is some preliminary research using 1,200 milligrams per day with steel workers and 2,700 milligrams per day with military personnel showing it can prevent ear trauma due to noise.

Both ALA and NAC supplements have a history of protecting nerves and other cells in the body: ALA protects nerves from damage in people with diabetes, for example, and NAC protects organs, like the liver, and tissues from acetaminophen overdose. So, these supplements could be preventing reactive oxygen species—a.k.a. oxidative stress, the normal wear and tear that happens to all cells through the course of daily living (aging) and exposure to environmental factors (sun, smoke) and toxins (lead, mercury)— due to noise exposure. ALA can cause a malodorous urine smell (similar to what happens when some people eat asparagus) because of the high concentration of sulfur compounds. 

Also, rarely, ALA can cause rash and itching and a significant drop in glucose levels (very rarely).

Vitamin B12

In one study, Army personnel who had a vitamin B12 deficiency showed a greater rate of noise-induced hearing loss than those with normal B12 levels. High doses of vitamin B12 (1 milligram daily for 7 days and then 5 milligrams on the eighth day) appeared to protect the ear from noise damage better than a placebo. It may help by reducing the excitatory impact of high levels of noise stimulation.

Magnesium

While it hasn’t been repeated, a small study of magnesium supplements showed a minor questionable benefit at 122 milligrams per day in protecting nerve and hair cells compared to a placebo. More studies are ongoing with magnesium supplements to determine if this mineral could improve hearing loss.

Miscellaneous

Researchers have theorized that other antioxidants— from CoQ10 to vitamin E—can prevent hearing loss, but good studies are lacking.

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