Say what? If you find yourself asking, maybe you’re having trouble hearing. And you’re not alone—13% of people in the U.S. over 12 years old have hearing loss in both ears. If you’re among them and are wondering how to improve hearing loss naturally, there are things you can do.1
In this post, we break down common types of hearing loss and natural remedies you can use to help protect and improve your hearing.
Before we dive in, let’s talk about the basics of hearing loss.
Types of Hearing Loss
There are three main types of hearing loss that each affect different parts of the ear.
Conductive hearing loss comes from an obstruction in, or damage to, the middle or outer ear. The damage or obstruction prevents sound from reaching the auditory nerve. Conductive hearing loss can be temporary or permanent.
The most common type of hearing loss is sensorineural hearing loss. We hear when sound waves move the hair cells (cilia) in our inner ear, and that movement creates electrical impulses that travel to the auditory nerve in our brains. Damage to our auditory nerve or cilia results in sensorineural hearing loss.
Mixed hearing loss is a combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss. It happens when a blockage or damage in your middle or outer ear makes your sensorineural hearing loss worse.
Causes of Hearing Loss
Several things cause hearing loss.
While age itself doesn’t cause hearing loss, 33% of people over 65 have hearing loss.2 Age-related hearing loss, known as presbycusis, is a slow loss of hearing in both ears that results from changes in the inner ear as we age.
A variety of factors can cause hearing loss, including:
- Genetics: age-related hearing loss tends to run in families
- Exposure to loud noises:
- Noises above 85 decibels (dB), the sound of a gas lawnmower, can damage your ears and hearing in a few hours3
- Noises above 120 dB can immediately damage your ears and hearing3
- Smoking: smokers are more prone to hearing loss than nonsmokers
- Medical conditions, including diabetes
- Some medications, including chemotherapy drugs for cancer treatment
Knowing what type of hearing loss you have can help you determine if it’s possible to improve it at home, or if you need the help of a doctor or hearing specialist.
Whether you have hearing loss now or want to avoid it in the future, there are things you can do to protect and improve hearing loss naturally.
How to Improve Hearing Naturally
If you’re experiencing hearing loss, there are things you can try to improve it, including natural remedies for hearing loss.
The best thing is to prevent hearing loss in the first place. And many of the ideas here can help.
Note that the methods here are not intended as medical advice. Before trying anything at home, talk to your doctor. And if your hearing gets worse, we advise you to see a doctor about it . Know that some hearing loss is permanent and may require assistive devices.
Clean the Wax Out
Built-up ear wax is one of the leading causes of conductive hearing loss. It prevents sound waves from reaching your inner ear.
The good news is that you can safely remove ear wax. If you do it regularly, you can help maintain hearing.
When you clean your ears, keep in mind that they’re delicate. Don’t put cotton swabs, ear wax candles, or sharp instruments in your ears. Instead, follow this home remedy for cleaning your ear canal naturally:
- Soften the wax: Put a few drops of baby oil, mineral oil, glycerin, or diluted hydrogen peroxide in the ear canal.
- Flush with warm water: Once the wax softens (usually after a day or two), gently squirt warm water into your ear canal. The warm water should flush out the softened wax and clear the blockage. Tip: Tilt your head to the side, so the water drains out of your ear.
- Dry your ear: After removing the wax, gently dry your outer ear with a soft, clean towel.
Your doctor can also remove excess wax for you or recommend an over-the-counter ear drop or removal kit.
Exercise Your Brain
A study by the Perelman School of Medicine found a possible connection between hearing loss and grey matter atrophy. Grey matter is the part of the brain that handles sensory perception (including hearing).
While the study suggested a link between hearing loss to grey matter loss, it may also work the other way: grey matter atrophy may also lead to hearing loss.
Exercising your brain–and body–can protect your grey matter. Solving puzzles is a great mental workout to get the blood flowing in your brain and improve brain and hearing health.
Consider the following games to keep your brain and hearing sharp:
- Crossword puzzles
- Word searches
- Jigsaw puzzles
- Card games
Exercise Your Body
Cardio exercise, like jogging, biking, hiking, and walking, can help improve your overall health, your brain health, and your hearing.4
Just as working out your brain increases blood flow to it, working out your body increases blood flow to your brain and ears. And like the rest of your body, the tiny hairs in your ears responsible for most of your hearing are more likely to stay healthy and fully functional with good blood flow.
Yoga won’t get your heart pumping as much as jogging, but it improves blood flow. Some studies show that it may improve sensorineural hearing loss too.5
Nix the Nicotine
A study in 2013 found that smokers have a higher risk for hearing loss, particularly sensioneural hearing loss.6 It also found that the more someone smokes, the higher their risk.6 That holds for the number of cigarettes smoked a day and the number of years someone smokes. The older a smoker gets, the greater the chance of hearing loss6.
Smoking can also cause tinnitus.8 Tinnitus isn’t hearing loss. It’s a noise or ringing in your ear. And it’s a problem for 90% of people with hearing loss and a nuisance for anyone dealing with it.8
Bottom line: If you smoke, cut back, or quit altogether to protect and improve your hearing.
Turn Down the Volume Already
Listening to loud sounds, such as music or power equipment, can damage your hearing. The longer you listen, the higher the risk of noise-induced hearing loss.
Everyday noises, even at lower volumes, can lead to some form of hearing loss over time.
To protect your hearing and prevent further damage, avoid loud, prolonged noises. And if you can’t avoid the noise, use hearing protection.
Hearing protection devices won’t reverse existing damage but can protect and preserve the hearing you have left.
Loud noises contribute to roughly 15% of hearing loss cases.9 Using earplugs can reduce the volume of loud noise. Earplugs decrease the number of sound waves entering your ear canal.
When using earplugs to preserve your hearing:
- Find a pair that fits snugly in your outer ear canal.
- Consider custom-fit earplugs if you work in a job with regular exposure to loud noises.
Also, turn down the volume when using headphones to listen to music or the TV.
Earmuffs function like earplugs, but protect the entire ear, not just the outer ear canal. You want earmuffs that form an airtight seal around your ear for the best results. You can also use earmuffs with earplugs for up to 15 dBs of added hearing protection.
Feed Your Nutritional Needs with Vitamins and Minerals
Studies aren’t conclusive, but vitamins and minerals may help hearing health.10,11 They have other benefits too.
Always talk to your doctor before adding any supplement to your diet.
Folate, or Folic acid, is one of the B vitamins. One study found that men over 60 who take more folate have a lower risk of hearing loss.12 Other studies have also found correlations between low folate intake and hearing loss. 13
Foods high in folate include:
- Sunflower seeds
- Dark green leafy vegetables
Many common foods are also fortified with folic acid, such as bread, flour, pasta, rice, and cereal.
Potassium may help balance the natural fluid in the inner ear and in the part of the brain that translates noise into recognizable sounds. Research suggest higher potassium intake might lower the risk of hearing loss.14
The best way to add potassium to your diet is though foods. Potassium-rich foods include:
- Lima beans
Remember to check with your doctor before taking supplements. Also follow their instructions if they’ve told you to restrict your potassium intake.
Omega 3s are known for their anti-inflammatory and anti-aging properties. They may also promote brain function and communication between the brain and the ear, which might improve your hearing.15 Studies have shown Omega 3s may reduce the risk of age-related hearing loss.16
Omega 3-rich foods include:
- Cod liver oil
- Chia seeds
Investigate Herbal Remedies
Some herbal remedies show promise for treating hearing loss naturally. Traditional Oriental Medicine (TOM) has used herbs to treat hearing loss for centuries.
Again, ask your doctor before adding any supplement to your diet.
Promising Herbal Options as Natural Remedies for Hearing Loss
One study found that 25 herbs and 40 compounds used in TOM might help with sensorineural hearing loss and tinnitus caused by noise, aging, ototoxic drugs, and diabetes.17Ginkgo biloba, Panax ginseng, and Astragalus propinquus showed particular promise to improve hearing in patients with sensorineural hearing loss and to reduce symptoms of tinnitus.18
A year-long study found that 10 mg of Vinpocetine (VPC) three times a day might improve acquired sensorineural hearing loss.19 Study participants reported their hearing loss not only stopped progressing but reversed.
Another study found that Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) holds promise for treating sudden-onset sensorineural hearing loss.20
There’s an App for Your Ears
Technology isn’t necessarily natural, but it does offer helpful, do-it-yourself ways to improve hearing. Playing these apps and programs for just a few minutes a day might maintain or improve your hearing health.
AudioCardio Hearing & Tinnitus
AudioCardio is an app for hearing and sound therapy. After an initial test, the app creates a therapy session for each ear. You can complete daily sessions while you do other things.
The app is clinically proven to “maintain, protect, and strengthen hearing.” Find AudioCardio in the app store.
LACE (Listening & Communication Enhancement) Auditory Training and Aural Rehabilitation
LACE is designed to train your hearing to keep up with conversations in noisy environments. The online trainings use artificial intelligence to adapt to your hearing level and keep you on track for improved comprehension.
While LACE can’t improve your hearing as far as how your ears function, it may improve your brain’s ability to comprehend what you do hear. Find LACE online.
Offline Hearing Exercises
If you don’t want to use apps or computer programs, you can train your hearing at home, offline, with auditory training exercises.
Start by enlisting a friend or family member to:
- Have a conversation in a noisy environment (turn up the TV or radio) and focus on the conversation to train your brain to cut through the noise.
- Have someone move around you while your eyes are closed so you can practice identifying the direction and distance of the sound.
When alone (or not), sing. One study found that singing helps people with age-related hearing loss better perceive speech in noisy environments.21
Don’t Shun Assistive Devices
If you find you still don’t hear as well as you’d like, talk to a doctor. Your doctor may suggest an assistive device, such as a hearing aid or a cochlear implant. You can also try captions on your TV or captioned calls on your own.
Using assistive captioning improves perception, memory, and comprehension, which helps you and your brain.
You may qualify for captioned calls at no cost if you have hearing loss that requires call captioning to effectively use the phone. Sorenson offers call captioning on a specially designed phone with a captioning screen and through the CaptionCall Mobile app for your cell phone.