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Red wine may fight deafness

Age-related deafness, and hearing loss caused by loud noise may be reduced by the antioxidants in red wine and aspirin. Scientists are claiming that the compounds they contain could help protect the delicate hairs of the inner ear that are vital to hearing.

Destructive chemical agents called oxygen-free radicals, produced by normal cellular processes and in response to loud noise and exposure to powerful antibiotics, can damage the hairs. But antioxidants such as resveratrol, found in red wine and salicylate, the active ingredient in aspirin, should be able to neutralise them.

To test whether this was the case, scientists in the United States used salicylate to prevent damage to hair cells in patients’ ears caused by the strong antibiotic, gentamicin. Hearing loss affected just 3% of patients who were given gentamicin plus aspirin for acute ear infections, compared with 13% treated with the antibiotic plus a non-active placebo.

Dr Jochen Schacht, of the University of Michigan Medical School, said: “That’s a 75% reduction in toxicity to the ear.”

The evidence suggested that a similar effect could be achieved by including more antioxidant-rich foods in the diet, he added. “I wouldn’t say it is proof for antioxidants, the jury’s still out on that. But it certainly can’t hurt to increase the amount of green vegetables, red wine or green tea that you consume.”