Hard of hearing? Eat a banana!

One of the reasons I love food is because much of it is literally medicine. Ginger and mint for nausea, avocados for skin or garlic for coughs and colds; nature has a way of being able to fix many of the health problems we – and all animals – suffer from.

One I didn’t know until very recently though, is that eating more bananas can actually help you hear better. Recent international research by the Global Centre for Hearing and Speech Research has found links between nutritional deficiencies (including low levels of potassium, zinc, folic acid and magnesium) and hearing loss. Low-levels of potassium are particularly significant, as potassium-rich fluids found in the middle ear play a crucial role in converting sounds.

“As we age our hearing can deteriorate,” says audiologist Dawn Rollings. “There might be a number of factors which cause this, however it is interesting to learn that potassium levels also decrease as we age, making hearing loss even more prevalent.”

A new report commissioned by the National Foundation for the Deaf estimated 880,350 people in New Zealand (18.9 per cent) suffer from some form of hearing loss last year. That’s almost one in five of us. The prevalence increases with age, to almost 60 per cent in adults over the age of 60, and 74 per cent in adults over the age of 70 likely to develop hearing loss.

But it’s not only age-related hearing loss we need to be mindful of. Tinnitus, ringing or buzzing in the ears, often developed through prolonged exposure to loud noises has also been linked to low levels of zinc and magnesium.

Magnesium has been found to protect the ears from noise-induced hearing loss as it shelters the delicate inner ears hair cells from damage. While zinc boosts the body’s immune system and is also responsible for cell growth and healing, so it’s potentially helpful in warding off ear infections.

Need a bit of banana inspiration? Now you don’t need an excuse to make this divine Banana Cream Pie!