Does Chocolate Affect Hearing?

[May 2019 | San Juan Silver Stage | By Brian Bennett BC-HIS]

I’m no girly man. I like hard work. ‘Tough hunts,’ and hard-smack football. But give me a piece of real good fudge and I’ll melt me into a puddle of satisfied bliss. Time stops as my mouth succumbs to a ‘don’t you dare rush this’ baptism of brown indulgence.

If you’ve never been there with me, well, congratulations on your virginity . . . I guess. I know, though, that most of us admit to being chocolate lovers and we mean that literally.

This is why when asked to speak on hearing health, my favorite presentation is “How Chocolate Affects Hearing.”

I begin by demonstrating concentration’s importance in hearing and how hearing loss reduces the ability to concentrate. Studies say that adults over 70, with just moderate hearing loss are 33% more likely to experience accelerated cognitive decline. The worse the hearing loss, the greater the likely acceleration. Once those with profound loss reach 77, nearly all of them have seen hearing loss accelerate their cognitive decline. Does this mean that every older person with hearing loss is going to get Alzheimer’s? No, but treating hearing loss helps beat the odds. A recent study in England showed that senior hearing-loss patients who wore hearing aids had 75% less cognitive decline than their counterparts whose hearing loss remained untreated. Let’s call that the ‘mechanical’ part of treating hearing loss.

“But,” you ask, “would chocolate have helped as much as hearing aids?” I believe that’s worth researching since several studies have found that people who had higher flavanol intake showed better signs of memory retention. Aren’t Cocoa flavanols what gives chocolate its flavor?

Chocolate also has trace amounts of caffeine. Caffeine helps most people concentrate, which in turn helps them hear better. So perhaps we could also say chocolate is ‘medicinal,’ and can improve hearing and slow cognitive decline by 75%! Perhaps chocolate and hearing aids would yield 150% improvement!

Chocolate also releases endorphins and dopamine, and dark chocolate is rich in tryptophan which stimulates the production of serotonin. How does all this ‘feel good’ affect hearing? If the ‘feel good’ is replacing stress, then it sure can’t hurt. Especially for those with tinnitus and/or nerve-damage hearing loss. I see the interplay of stress, hearing loss, and tinnitus all the time. Stress creates inflammation which can pinch off the outer strands of the vestibulocochlear (hearing) nerve. Sometimes a brain that’s had those signals pinched off will respond by creating high-pitched ringing or tinnitus.

So, what’s the best prescription to treat hearing loss and tinnitus? Eat that chocolate! Meditate. Relax. Let the melting chocolate melt your stress away and maybe your hearing and tinnitus will improve. Of course, hearing aids will accomplish all this at a much higher and more proven level. Modern hearing aids are proven to vastly reduce socio-emotional stress leading to reduced symptomatology from many chronic health conditions.

How does chocolate affect hearing? It may help just as much as you hope and believe it will. But if you really want to have chocolate and hear better, the best solution is a good set of hearing aids plus plenty of chocolate. With that in mind, be sure to clean out that handy bowl of candy that your hearing clinic keeps on the desk—just for the chocolate lovers that need both a a medicinal and a mechanical boost to help them hear better.

Brian Bennett, BC-HIS, is an audiologist and the owner of Colorado Hearing in Montrose. He is also a public speaker on hearing health. Learn more here. https://www.coloradohearing.net/