Dietary antioxidant intake is associated with the prevalence but not incidence of age-related hearing loss



Diet is one of the few modifiable risk factors for age-related hearing loss. We aimed to examine the link between dietary and supplement intakes of antioxidants, and both the prevalence and 5-year incidence of measured hearing loss.


Cross-sectional and 5-year longitudinal analyses. Setting: Blue Mountains, Sydney, Australia.


2,956 Blue Mountains Hearing Study participants aged 50+ at baseline, examined during 1997–9 to 2002–4.


Age-related hearing loss was measured and defined as the pure-tone average of frequencies 0.5, 1.0, 2.0 and 4.0 kHz >25 dB HL. Dietary data were collected in a semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaire, and intakes of -carotene; -carotene; -cryptoxanthin; lutein and zeaxanthin; lycopene; vitamins A, C and E; iron and zinc were calculated.


After adjusting for age, sex, smoking, education, occupational noise exposure, family history of hearing loss, history of diagnosed diabetes and stroke, each standard deviation (SD) increase in dietary vitamin E intake was associated with a 14% reduced likelihood of prevalent hearing loss, odds ratio, OR, 0.86 (95% confidence interval, CI, 0.78–0.98). Those in the highest quintile of dietary vitamin A intake had a 47% reduced risk of having moderate or greater hearing loss (>40 dB HL) compared to those in the lowest quintile of intake, multivariable-adjusted OR 0.53 (CI 0.30–0.92), P for trend = 0.04. However, dietary antioxidant intake was not associated with the 5-year incidence of hearing loss.


Dietary vitamin A and vitamin E intake were significantly associated with the prevalence of hearing loss. However, dietary antioxidant intake did not increase the risk of incident hearing loss. Further large, prospective studies are warranted to assess these relationships in older adults.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. 1.

    Seidman MD. Effects of dietary restriction and antioxidants on presbyacusis. Laryngoscope 2000;110:727–738.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Gates GA, Caspary DM, Clark W, Pillsbury HC, III, Brown SC, Dobie RA. Presbycusis. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 1989;100:266–271.

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Takumida M, Anniko M. Radical scavengers: a remedy for presbyacusis. A pilot study. Acta Otolaryngol 2005;125:1290–1295.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Nakashima T, Naganawa S, Sone M et al. Disorders of cochlear blood flow. Brain Res Brain Res Rev 2003;43:17–28.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Shargorodsky J, Curhan SG, Eavey R, Curhan GC. A prospective study of vitamin intake and the risk of hearing loss in men. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 2010;142:231–236.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Le Prell CG, Hughes LF, Miller JM. Free radical scavengers vitamins A, C, and E plus magnesium reduce noise trauma. Free Radic Biol Med 2007;42:1454–1463.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Attebo K, Mitchell P, Smith W. Visual acuity and the causes of visual loss in Australia. The Blue Mountains Eye Study. Ophthalmology 1996;103:357–364.

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Willett WC, Sampson L, Browne ML et al. The use of a self-administered questionnaire to assess diet four years in the past. Am J Epidemiol 1988;127:188–199.

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Department of Community Services and Health. NUTTAB 90 nutrient data table for use in Australia. Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service, 1990.

    Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Chug-Ahuja JK, Holden JM, Forman MR, Mangels AR, Beecher GR, Lanza E. The development and application of a carotenoid database for fruits, vegetables, and selected multicomponent foods. J Am Diet Assoc 1993;93:318–323.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Cruickshanks KJ, Wiley TL, Tweed TS et al. Prevalence of hearing loss in older adults in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. The Epidemiology of Hearing Loss Study. Am J Epidemiol 1998;148:879–886.

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Willett W, Stampfer MJ. Total energy intake: implications for epidemiologic analyses. Am J Epidemiol 1986;124:17–27.

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Houston DK, Johnson MA, Nozza RJ et al. Age-related hearing loss, vitamin B-12, and folate in elderly women. Am J Clin Nutr 1999;69:564–571.

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Hamilton IM, Gilmore WS, Benzie IF, Mulholland CW, Strain JJ. Interactions between vitamins C and E in human subjects. Br J Nutr 2000;84:261–267.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Christian P, West KP, Jr. Interactions between zinc and vitamin A: an update. Am J Clin Nutr 1998;68:435S–441S.

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Lee DH, Jacobs DR, Jr. Interaction among heme iron, zinc, and supplemental vitamin C intake on the risk of lung cancer: Iowa Women’s Health Study. Nutr Cancer 2005;52:130–137.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Le T, Keithley EM. Effects of antioxidants on the aging inner ear. Hear Res 2007;226:194–202.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Burton GW, Joyce A, Ingold KU. Is vitamin E the only lipid-soluble, chain-breaking antioxidant in human blood plasma and erythrocyte membranes? Arch Biochem Biophys 1983;221:281–290.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Schafer FQ, Wang HP, Kelley EE, Cueno KL, Martin SM, Buettner GR. Comparing beta-carotene, vitamin E and nitric oxide as membrane antioxidants. Biol Chem 2002;383:671–681.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Joachims HZ, Segal J, Golz A, Netzer A, Goldenberg D. Antioxidants in treatment of idiopathic sudden hearing loss. Otol Neurotol 2003;24:572–575.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Michikawa T, Nishiwaki Y, Kikuchi Y et al. Serum levels of retinol and other antioxidants for hearing impairment among Japanese older adults. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci 2009;64:910–915.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Chole RA, Quick CA. Estimate of vitamin A in the guinea pig cochlea. Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol 1978;87:380–382.

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Ahn JH, Kang HH, Kim YJ, Chung JW. Anti-apoptotic role of retinoic acid in the inner ear of noise-exposed mice. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 2005;335:485–490.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Smith W, Mitchell P, reay em, Webb K, Harvey PW. Validity and reproducibility of a self-administered food frequency questionnaire in older people. Aust N Z J Public Health 1998;22:456–463.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Department of Community Services and Health. NUTTAB95 nutrient data table for use in Australia. Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service, 1995.

    Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Tan JS, Wang JJ, Flood V, Rochtchina E, Smith W, Mitchell P. Dietary antioxidants and the long-term incidence of age-related macular degeneration: the Blue Mountains Eye Study. Ophthalmology 2008;115:334–341.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Paul Mitchell.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Gopinath, B., Flood, V.M., McMahon, C.M. et al. Dietary antioxidant intake is associated with the prevalence but not incidence of age-related hearing loss. J Nutr Health Aging 15, 896–900 (2011).

Download citation

Key words

  • Age-related hearing loss
  • antioxidant
  • vitamin A
  • vitamin E
  • Blue Mountains Eye Study
  • Blue Mountains Hearing Study