Healthy diets, healthy hearing: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999-2002

Int J Audiol. 2013 Jun;52(6):369-76. doi: 10.3109/14992027.2013.780133. Epub 2013 Apr 18.


Objective: A significant relationship between dietary nutrient intake and susceptibility to acquired hearing loss is emerging. Variability in the outcomes across studies is likely related to differences in the specific metrics used to quantify nutrient intake and hearing status. Most studies have used single nutrient analysis. Although this analysis is valuable, interactions between nutrients are increasingly recognized and could modify modeling of single nutrient effects. Therefore, we examined the potential relationship between diet and hearing using a metric of overall dietary quality.

Design: This cross-sectional analysis was based on healthy eating index data and audiological thresholds.

Study sample: Data for adults between the ages of 20 to 69 years of age were drawn from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999-2002.

Results: Controlling for age, race/ethnicity, sex, education, diabetes, and noise exposure, we found a significant negative relationship (Wald F = 6.54, df = 4, 29; p ≤ 0.05) between dietary quality and thresholds at higher frequencies, where higher dietary quality was associated with lower hearing thresholds. There was no statistically significant relationship between dietary quality and threshold sensitivity at lower frequencies.

Conclusions: The current findings support an association between healthier eating and better high frequency thresholds in adults.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Impedance Tests
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Audiometry
  • Auditory Threshold
  • Bone Conduction
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet*
  • Female
  • Hearing Loss / diagnosis
  • Hearing Loss / epidemiology*
  • Hearing Loss / physiopathology
  • Hearing*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutrition Assessment
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Otoscopy
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult