Can Red Wine Save Your Hearing?

The buzz about resveratrol—the anti-aging, disease-fighting antioxidant found in red wine, grapes, and peanuts—is about to get louder. Resveratrol may protect against hearing loss, according to a new study in Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery.

Researchers exposed rats to loud noise, giving one group of the rodents a resveratrol supplement beforehand. The results: The rats that didn’t receive the resveratrol experienced hearing loss and saw increases in certain markers of inflammation, free radical formation, and DNA damage—all things that can kill hearing. But the rats that received the supplement had less hearing loss, measured by a 90 percent reduction in certain markers of inflammation and creation of those free radicals, says study coauthor Michael D. Seidman, M.D., director at the division of otologic/neurotologic surgery at the Henry Ford Health System.

Granted, much of the research on resveratrol has been done on mice, but Dr. Seidman says the results could be applicable to humans, too. See, resveratrol may inhibit the inflammation that leads to hearing loss and other diseases, which both humans and rats experience. That’s crucial considering the American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery estimates that 10 million Americans have some noise-induced hearing loss. Repeated exposure to over 85 decibels—basically anything over the sound of a hair dryer or lawnmower—can damage your ears.

And while a glass of red wine every evening could help protect your ears, loading up on other nutrients may make more of an impact, says Dr. Seidman. Here are three that help do the job:

  • Fish: Eating fish twice a week can reduce your risk of developing age-related hearing loss by 42 percent, found a 2010 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Fish, including salmon, contain essential fatty acids that improve blood flow to the ear to preserve hearing.
  • Apples: They contain a flavonoid called quercetin, an antioxidant that fights the free radical damage that’s so dangerous to hearing.
  • Fortified cereals: They pack zinc, a mineral that’s found in your inner ear and can lessen inflammation. One study from Taiwan suggests that zinc may even treat a certain type of hearing loss called sudden sensorineural hearing loss. The recommended intake for guys is 15 milligrams—a good goal. You’ll find 100 percent of that in a serving of some whole grain cereals like All-Bran Complete and Multi Grain Cheerios.