High blood levels of homocysteine can increase the risk of hearing loss, and low folate levels sharply increase that risk even more.
Elevated homocysteine can obstruct blood flow to the cochlea–the section of the inner ear that converts vibrations to electrical signals. Homocysteine is best known for creating heart problems. Most importantly, an elevated homocysteine level is an independent risk factor for heart disease. High levels of this amino acid are also linked with Alzheimer’s disease, kidney disease, and vision problems.
So could a couple of B vitamins help?
Well, we know that high levels of vitamin B12 and folate (also known as B9) are associated with low homocysteine levels.
Homocysteine levels tend to rise as we age. So…if folate is low, homocysteine high, and hearing is impaired, can some folic acid (synthetic folate) help?
One study says yes. But don’t expect miracles.
Researchers in the Netherlands gave 800 micrograms of folic acid or a placebo to nearly 730 subjects over the age of 50 with high homocysteine levels. After three years, average rate of decline in hearing low frequencies was significantly less in the folic acid group compared to placebo. But both groups had similar decline in hearing higher frequencies.
But folic acid isn’t your only option.
Vinpocetine is an herbal extract that improves circulation. Ideally, it might help alleviate reduced blood flow to the cochlea–especially when your meal plan contains dietary sources of folate, such as beans, chickpeas, asparagus, spinach, and other leafy green vegetables.