A moderate intake of red wine has long been associated with many health benefits, especially for the heart. Red wine is packed with antioxidants and tannins, which protect you against some types of cancer and cardiovascular disease.
The substance getting the most attention: resveratrol.
Resveratrol is an anti-inflammatory plant compound that acts like an antioxidant. It tends to be most concentrated in the skins and seeds of red grapes and some berries, such as blueberries. You can also find it in dark chocolate and peanut butter. These days you can even buy it as a dietary supplement.
Research has shown that resveratrol has a positive effect on cognitive decline, blood fats, joint pains and some other aspects of ageing. It may even suppress cancer.
So what about hearing?
Some years ago, Dr Michael Seidman and a team from the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, investigated whether resveratrol could have a positive impact on hearing. They basically fed healthy rats resveratrol to find out.
Their findings? Rats on the resveratrol-rich diet were less likely to suffer noise-induced hearing loss after being exposed to loud noises for significant periods of time. In fact, the rats treated with resveratrol had 50% less hearing loss than other rats.
This is especially good news, since noise-induced hearing loss is one of the most common hearing problems people face. Plus, it’s connected to other conditions like high blood pressure and blood sugar.
What’s more, the researchers hypothesised that resveratrol’s anti-inflammation, “anti-aging” qualities might make the ear’s hearing hair cells break down less quickly. That breakdown is associated with both age-related hearing loss and the cognitive decline that can make it harder for older people to hear.
Seidman and his team have yet to do research on humans, but the results of the lab trials are promising.
From rats to humans
A UK study from 2014 also found a decreased risk of hearing loss for people who reported drinking alcohol occasionally – and even for those who had a drink daily. In fact, it showed that people who consume alcohol were less likely to experience hearing loss than lifetime teetotallers.
The study included 164,770 adults aged 40-69 years and appeared in the Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology.
Everything in moderation!
But before you uncork that next bottle, remember that there’s a big difference between a bit and a lot of alcohol. Some words to the wise:
• Heavy alcohol consumption can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease – which also is a known risk factor for hearing loss.
• A 2007 study concluded that alcohol blunts lower sound frequencies in the 1000 Hz range – the most crucial frequency for speech discrimination. Although changes often were temporary, the researchers warned that many episodes of temporary hearing loss can lead to permanent loss.
• The same study noted that heavy drinking might speed up the process of normal age-related hearing loss.
However, social drinkers who rarely overindulge might want to consider the potential positive effects of red wine. To that we simply say, “Cheers!”