Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Font Size

Folic Acid May Slow Hearing Loss

Older Adults Taking Folic Acid Supplements Show Less Loss of Low-Frequency Hearing
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Jan. 2, 2007 - Folic acid -- a B vitamin already added to U.S. flour -- may slow age-related hearing loss, a Dutch study shows.

Folic acid is also known as folate. Folic-acid deficiency causes birth defects and seems to contribute to heart disease and stroke.

The study looked at 728 Dutch men and women aged 50 to 70. Unlike the U.S., the Netherlands does not require folic acid supplementation of flour.

Participants in the Dutch study had high blood levels of homocysteine. Folic acid reduces homocysteine levels, so the Dutch study participants apparently consumed very little folic acid.

Half the study participants got strong folic acid supplements -- 800 micrograms per day, about twice what one would get in a multivitamin pill. The other participants got an inactive placebo pill.

After three years, those who got folic acid pills had less low-frequency hearing loss than did placebo recipients. The difference was slight: 0.7 decibels. The smallest change in sound intensity most people can notice is 1.0 decibels.

There was no slowing of high-frequency hearing loss. That may be because high-frequency hearing loss begins earlier in life than age 50.

Researchers Jane Durga, PhD, of Wageningen University, Netherlands, and colleagues suggest that by fortifying their flour with folic acid, nations might lessen their citizens' age-related hearing loss.

If a little folic acid from flour is good, would more folic acid be better? That's not known, suggests Robert A. Dobie, MD, of the University of California, Davis. Dobie's editorial accompanies the Durga study in the Jan. 2 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.

"If this [hearing] benefit applies to the entire population (a big 'if') and continues to accrue each year (another big 'if'), one might expect a 5-decibel reduction in age-related [hearing loss] over a 20-year period," Dobie calculates.

Such a shift would cut the percentage of 75-year-old men who need hearing aids from 33% to 22%.

Dobie notes that much more study is needed to see whether the study results -- seen in people with low folic-acid intake -- might apply to the better-nourished U.S. population.

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing