Being able to hear is something most of us cherish. Without hearing, it can be difficult to communicate with the world. Sound plays a fundamental role in our relationship to the things around us.
Hearing loss can happen as we age. Sometimes, medical conditions can cause you to lose some of your hearing. Exposure to constant loud noise is another culprit. And acute infections can trigger sudden hearing loss. Hearing loss is considered the third leading chronic health problem among American adults.
So what happens physiologically when you lose your hearing? It usually means that the passage of sound waves to your brain is impaired.
The ears are pretty complex organs. You might know that you have an external, middle, and inner ear. You also have an eardrum, which is extremely sensitive to damage. But did you know that hair cells in your ear translate sound waves into nerve impulses, which are then transmitted to your brain? These hair cells can also affect your hearing. When hair cells die, they are unable to repair themselves and hearing loss that results from this is permanent.
Now here’s where things get really interesting. Researchers at Purdue University have discovered that the amount of cholesterol in the outer hair cell membranes found in the inner ear can affect how well you hear.
Previous studies have revealed that cholesterol is lower in the outer hair cell membranes than in the other cells of the body. But no one understood the link between cholesterol levels and hearing.
At least until the research team at Purdue decided to adjust cholesterol levels in the outer hair cells of mice and record what happened. When cholesterol levels were reduced, the mice experienced hearing loss. When cholesterol was added, hearing initially improved, but then caused hearing loss again.
It seems there are two types of sensory hair cells in the inner ear. These cells are called simply inner and outer hair cells. It is the outer hair cells that are affected by cholesterol levels. Your hearing can be changed by adding or subtracting cholesterol in these cells.
Cholesterol levels normally don’t change much in your outer hair cells. Your body does a good job of fine-tuning levels. However, the researchers believe that when cholesterol in the bloodstream varies depending on diet, levels in the cells of the inner ear may be adversely affected.
The research team hopes that the results of the study will help with understanding how hair cells regulate hearing, providing a new way to assist those with hearing loss.
Clearly diet is one piece of the puzzle when it comes to preventing hearing loss. Keep cholesterol levels in check.
Avoid those foods that are high in HDL cholesterol. There are also some foods that will help to keep your ears healthy and free from the damage caused by infection. Pineapples, garlic, kelp, and sea vegetables are all beneficial for the ear