Your Bones, Nose, And Ears: The Unlikely Connection
If you think of one of the five senses that affects your bones, you would probably choose sight. After all, sight alerts you to dangerous objects you might trip over, and as many Savers know, sight helps you keep your balance.
But what if I told you that your senses of hearing and smell have a significant effect on your bone health?
They do, and today you’ll discover how they impact your bones. Plus you’ll get easy tips to prevent falls and improve your bone-building efforts.
Studies Show Hearing Loss Increases Falls
It may sound strange to think that hearing loss can affect your ability to avoid falls. But more than one study has pointed to this very thing.
According to research spearheaded at Johns Hopkins University, hearing loss is a significant factor in the incidence of falls that result in fracture. When researchers examined the results of a 3-year National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, they found that:
People with a 25-decibel hearing loss, classified as mild, were nearly three times more likely to have a history of falling. Every additional 10-decibels of hearing loss increased the chances of falling by 1.4 fold.”1
This isn’t the only body of data that indicates the connection between hearing loss and falling. An intriguing Finnish study on twins showed a clear association between hearing ability and balance, and genetic traits were not a factor. “People with poor hearing acuity have a higher risk for falls,”2 the study concludes.
How Does Hearing Loss Affect Falling?
The research shows that hearing loss increases the risk of falling. But in what way?
The head researcher of the Johns Hopkins study, Frank Lin, MD, PhD suggests that people with poor hearing are less aware of their overall environment and thus are more likely to trip and fall. Lin also suggests cognitive load as a major factor.
Cognitive load refers to the amount of information your brain processes and the effort put forth to function cognitively. If cognitive load is too high because you’re constantly straining to hear and thus feeling exhausted, your brain may be overwhelmed. At that point, you can’t give proper attention to balance and walking.
You may think you don’t give much attention to those things anyway, but balance and walking are actually pretty demanding of your brain “behind the scenes.” If much of your brain is preoccupied with trying to compensate for poor hearing, there just aren’t enough resources available to devote to moving and balance.
Do You Need A Professional Hearing Assessment?
It may be that your hearing isn’t up to par and you don’t even know it. Take a look at the items on this list – do any of them describe you?
- Do you have a hard time hearing people when you talk on the phone?
- If there is background noise, such as at a party or in a restaurant, do you have trouble hearing conversations?
- Do others get frustrated with you for asking them to repeat themselves?
- Have you been accused of mumbling?
- Do those with higher voices, particularly women and children, present a challenge to your hearing?
- Are group conversations difficult?
If you answered yes to more than 2 of these, you might want to take steps to improve your hearing, such as getting checked out by a professional audiologist who can help you find solutions.
Making “Scents” Of Your Bone Health: Your Sense of Smell
Your hearing isn’t the only sense that affects your bone health. Believe it or not, your sense of smell can actually influence your bone density.
In a fascinating French study, participants were divided into two groups. Before being served a meal, one group spent time in a room that had been sprayed with the scent of fresh pears. The other group waited in a room with no particular scent. Then both groups were given access to a three-course buffet of various foods.
For the first two courses, the groups didn’t differ much in their food choices. But for the dessert course, a notable difference emerged. Among the group that had been exposed to the smell of fresh pears, three-fourth of them chose a fruit-based dessert; the other 25% chose a chocolate brownie.3
Less than 50% of the participants who had not been exposed to the pear scent chose the brownie.
In other words, smelling fresh pears influenced the participants to choose a healthier option. And when it comes to saving your bones, choosing healthy foods is absolutely essential to building and maintaining bone health.
How You Can Use Your Sense Of Smell To Make Bone-Healthy Food Choices
This information is interesting, but what does it mean in a practical way? The fact is, you can use this information to prime yourself for food choice success. Here’s how.
Fill Your Home With Delicious, Natural Scents
While the study does not clarify whether the pear scent used in the research was synthetic or natural, the truth is, synthetic air fresheners contain toxic ingredients that harm your bones. Using artificial air fresheners would undermine what you’re trying to do, which is build your bone health by influencing proper food choices.
So instead, go for natural home fragrances. You can make your own using essential oils and a diffuser. The study suggests that fruity scents are the most effective.
Apply A Natural Fragrance To Your Skin
The same cautions about synthetic fragrances apply to personal scents. Natural fragrances are healthy options for smelling great and priming yourself to choose healthier foods. You can easily make your own bone-healthy scent using fruity essential oils and a carrier. Make sure you wear it before going out to eat!
Cook With Fragrant Herbs And Spices
What better way to prepare for making healthy food choices than cooking with good-smelling herbs and spices? Ginger, apples, cloves, and cinnamon are excellent scents for priming your sense of smell.
The Save Our Bones cookbook, Bone Appétit, can provide lots of ideas for cooking fragrant dishes that will fill your plate and your home with lovely bone-healthy smells. And it’s easy to make bone-healthy food choices with all the nutritious variety you’ll find in Bone Appétit.
How To Enhance Your Sense Of Smell
To get the full bone-healthy benefits of natural smells, it helps for your olfactory powers to be as keen as possible. Believe it or not, there are actually things you can do to enhance your sense of smell.
Over time, your sense of smell decreases; only strong, harsh scents come through and subtle ones are lost. To reawaken flagging cell receptors, try choosing several scents that are mild and pleasant to you. Maybe you like the scent of berries, bananas, or roses. Four to six times a day, sniff these pleasant scents and your sense of smell will respond with greater sensitivity. You’ll want to avoid harsh fragrances like garlic, vinegar, and so forth, as these can have the opposite effect.
The effect of hearing and smell on bone health just goes to show that no body system works in isolation. Our bodies are interconnected, and what we do to treat one area of the body, so long as it doesn’t involve toxic prescription drugs, will typically have a positive effect on another part of the body. The Save Our Bones Program is based in part on this principle, which is why it does more than improve the health of your bones. It can also improve your life.
Here’s to healthy hearing, wonderful smells, and strong bones!
Till next time,
2 Viljanen, Anne, et al. “Hearing as a predictor of Falls and Postural Balance in Older Female Twins.” J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 64A(2): 312-317. January 31, 2009. Web. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2655032/
3 Gaillet, M., et al. “Priming effects of an olfactory food cue on subsequent food-related behaviour.” Food Quality and Preference. April 2013. Web. http://www.researchgate.net/publication/236608583_Priming_effects_of_an_olfactory_food_cue_on_subsequent_food-related_behaviour