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Age-related hearing loss affects 40% of Americans older than 75, and is becoming more prevalent as the population ages. Yet, researchers still don’t understand exactly why and how it happens, and effective treatments for it are lacking. People who are starting to lose their hearing are told to wait until it is bad enough that hearing aids are needed. By that time, the isolation, dependence, and frustration associated with hearing loss may already have diminished quality of life. Recently, however, a small number of integrative physicians have begun offering their patients natural remedies for hearing loss that may stop—or even partially reverse—this devastating condition.
Bio-Identical Aldosterone: What Is It?
A bio-identical version of the hormone aldosterone is increasing in popularity as an experimental treatment for age-related hearing loss and some other forms of hearing loss. In addition to regulating kidney function, aldosterone plays a role in controlling levels of two crucial signaling chemicals in the nervous system: potassium and sodium. The proportion of sodium and potassium is particularly important in the inner ear, where potassium-rich fluid plays a central role in converting sounds into signals that the nervous system recognizes.
Research on Aldosterone for Hearing Loss
In 2005, a team from the International Center for Hearing and Speech Research, a leading group from the University of Rochester, found that the more aldosterone older people have in their bloodstreams, the better their hearing. They discovered that people with severe hearing loss have an average of half as much aldosterone in their bloodstreams as those with normal hearing. The researchers also linked lower aldosterone levels with difficulty discriminating sounds against a noisy background, another hallmark of age-related hearing loss. The authors of the landmark study concluded “that aldosterone hormone may have a protective effect on hearing in old age.”
Around the same time, another research team from Oregon Health Sciences University was investigating the role of aldosterone in other forms of hearing loss caused by autoimmune processes. They confirmed that boosting levels of aldosterone effectively restores hearing in mice with autoimmune hearing loss.[2,3]
Current Use of Aldosterone for Hearing Loss
Aldosterone is currently available in both natural (bio-identical) and synthetic forms. Unfortunately, despite the encouraging preliminary research findings, the safety and efficacy of aldosterone for hearing loss have not been evaluated in humans. That hasn’t stopped some natural and integrative physicians from prescribing it, however, and reporting promising results. For instance, Dr. Jonathan Wright, MD, a leading physician in bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, is currently prescribing low doses of bioidentical aldosterone to patients with hearing loss who also have low baseline levels of aldosterone in their blood or urine.
He writes on his web page: “I’ve had aldosterone levels tested in many individuals with hearing loss (most of them ‘older’) and a significant number turned out to have low or ‘low normal’ measurements. But after taking bio-identical aldosterone in ‘physiologic’ quantities—amounts that would normally be present in adult human bodies—more than half of these individuals have regained a significant proportion of their ‘lost’ hearing.”
Dr. Wright and the other natural and integrative practitioners prescribing aldosterone must be very cautious, since excess aldosterone is associated with high blood pressure and increased risk of cardiovascular disease, among other side effects. Dr. Wright makes sure his patients’ aldosterone levels never get above the normal range, and he routinely checks their serum potassium, sodium, and chloride (electrolytes).
Dr. Wright’s theory is that aldosterone is a natural steroid hormone that belongs in the body and isn’t harmful if it is kept within an acceptable physiologic range. This is the basic rationalization used by many prescribers of bioidentical hormones. Whether it’s true or not is not known and likely won’t be anytime soon, since there’s essentially no money to fund the large, long-term studies that would be needed to truly test this hypothesis. Nevertheless, aging adults with hearing loss are turning to practitioners like Dr. Wright who are prescribing bioidentical aldosterone.
Additional Natural Remedies for Hearing Loss
It’s never too late to start using natural medicine to protect your hearing. If you are experiencing diminished hearing with age, but are not yet ready or willing to go the aldosterone route, there are some other natural remedies you can try to at least slow down the rate of hearing loss.
It is now known that oxidative stress and inflammation are both underlying causes of age-related hearing loss. Certain anti-inflammatory and antioxidant nutrients have been shown to protect against and, in some cases, even treat age-related hearing loss in animal, observational, and/or preliminary human studies.[8-12] These include the following:
- the essential fatty acids EPA and DHA (found in fish oil)
- coenzyme Q10
- ginkgo biloba extract
If you need to lose weight or get better control of your blood pressure or blood sugar, doing so may also help prevent further hearing loss. You’ll find a wide variety of articles and strategies by following the links above.
If you’ve tried these, or any other natural remedies for hearing loss, tell us about them in the comments section below.
For related reading, visit these posts:
- Loss of Hearing: Avoid Loud Noises to Reduce Your Risk
- Hearing Aids May Help Keep You Healthy as You Age
- Hearing Aids: Find the Right Ones for Your Ears
This article was originally published in 2014. It is regularly updated.
 Hear Res. 2005 Nov;209(1-2):10-8.
 Hear Res. 2001 May;155(1-2):9-20.
 J Neuroimmunol. 2010 Dec 15;229(1-2):140-5.
 Am J Audiol. 2013 Sep 9.
 Jonathan Wright’s Nutrition and Healing. 2011 Aug 22. Accessed April 2, 2014.
 Jonathan Wright’s Nutrition and Healing. 2006 May 1. Accessed April 2, 2014.
 Geriatr Gerontol Int. 2014 Jan;14(1):40-53.
 Acta Otolaryngol. 2010 Oct;130(10):1101-12.
 Acta Otolaryngol. 2011 Nov;131(11):1160-4.
 Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Aug;92(2):416-21.
 Ann Intern Med. 2007 Jan 2;146(1):1-9.
 Clin Otolaryngol Allied Sci. 2004 Jun;29(3):238-41.