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March 2018 ABC News

In the same way that we are told to drink milk to keep our bones strong we are now being encouraged to eat bananas to protect our hearing. Emerging research shows key nutrients — including the potassium in bananas — can protect against age and environmental hearing loss while zinc protects against tinnitus.

Banana

Hearing loss — which effects one in seven Australians — has been linked with an increased risk of depression and dementia. "Studies show that nutritional deficiency is becoming an emerging causative factor in hearing loss," said Adelaide audiologist Frances Aglipay:

* Potassium levels decrease with age and contribute to hearing loss
* Zinc deficiency is linked to tinnitus and sensorineural hearing loss
* Magnesium helps protect ears against noise-induced hearing loss
* Increasing consumption of fish and Omega-3 fatty acides could help preserve cochlear function

"Potassium is very important in the functioning of the inner ear and plays an important role in converting sounds into signals that the nervous system can recognise. It doesn't mean that if you eat a lot of bananas, which are rich in potassium, it would cure the hearing loss but it can help maintain the optimum level of potassium to preserve the hearing."

Free bananas and hearing checks are being offered at 'Go Bananas' events across Australia.

The events are hosted by the Campaign for Better Hearing, a global body launched in Australia last month by affiliated hearing clinics to push hearing loss onto the Australian health agenda.

Naomi and Neil

Local resident Naomi gets her hearing checked at Berri by audiologist Neil Roberts

Riverland resident Naomi opted for a free hearing check at a Go Bananas event hosted at a shopping centre in Berri, in regional SA, this week. It was the first time she had heard that eating bananas could protect her hearing and said that she did worry about industrial hearing loss because of her job. "I was very surprised really, I didn't know they were that good for your hearing as well as the rest of your health. I will definitely be eating them and encouraging my family as well," she said.

In addition to potassium, nutrients including zinc, magnesium, vitamin B12 and folic acid are important to preserving good hearing. The inner ear contains the highest concentration of zinc of any organ and studies have shown a link between zinc deficiency and tinnitus, constant ringing or buzzing in the ear. A reported 15 per cent of the population suffers from constant tinnitus while 30 per cent experience in at some stage of their lives. "(Tinnitus) can cause a lot of stress in their life, there are many ways to manage the tinnitus and one of them is to maintain a healthy diet," said Ms Aglipay. The mineral magnesium, found in vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes, has been found to protect ears against noise-induced hearing loss, from operating loud machinery or listening to loud music. "It tends to shelter the delicate inner hair cell from damage," said Ms Aglipay.

The hearing campaign also encourages people to 'test your ears at 60 years’. "Hearing loss increases with age, 29.5 per cent of Australian between the age of 51-60 years old are affected with hearing loss and this rises to 58.4 percent for 61-70 years old," said Ms Aglipay.

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