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Hearing loss is linked to omega-3 deficiency

Hearing loss is linked to omega-3 deficiencyAs we grow older, our risk of hearing loss increases, and our diet plays a major role. Apparently, there is a link between hearing loss and being deficient in an omega-3 fatty acid that we get from oily fish and fish oil supplements. This was seen in a study that was presented in Boston at a meeting for the American Society for Nutrition – an American company for professional researchers and practitioners in nutrition. The scientists mention that increased intake of this particular omega-3 fatty acid from the diet or from supplements may help prevent hearing loss.

Age-related hearing loss typically sets in with losing the ability to hear grasshoppers and other high-frequency sounds. As the condition progresses, the ability to hear low-frequency sounds such as male voices and the bass in music is also lost. More than half of people aged 70 years and older suffer from hearing loss, and smoking, exposure to excessive noise and lack of nutrients increases the risk. Poor hearing and hearing loss impairs quality of life, so it is important to do everything possible to prevent the problem.
In the new study, researchers collected data from the UK Biobank and ended up with information about 115,000 participants aged 40-69 years. The study showed that those with the highest blood levels of the omega-3 fatty acid, DHA, had a 16 percent lower risk of developing age-related hearing loss compared with those who had the lowest DHA levels in their blood. In addition, those with highest DHA levels could more easily hear conversation even with noise in the background compared with those who had the lowest DHA levels.
DHA (together with the other omega-3 fatty acid, EPA) is found in oily fish and fish oil supplements. We have EPA and DHA in all our cell membranes where they carry out a long list of physiological functions.

How does DHA protect our hearing?

The scientists behind the new study say that it remains unclear how DHA protects our hearing. However, they assume that DHA protects the cells of the inner ear and counteracts local inflammation and tissue damage caused by noise, chemicals, and infections. Other mechanisms may also be at play. Animal studies have shown an increased risk of impaired hearing development in the offspring of mothers who lacked omega-3 during their pregnancy. It appears there is also a link between age-related hearing loss and blood concentrations of DHA in humans.
Although more research is needed, the scientists mention that one can easily increase blood levels of DHA by eating more oily fish or taking high-quality fish oil supplements with a relatively high EPA and DHA content.


Michael McBurney, PhD, senior scientist, Fatty Acid Research Institute and adjunct professor, human health and nutritional sciences, University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada; Linda Dahl, MD, otolaryngologist, Northwell Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; presentation, American Society for Nutrition meeting, Boston, July 24, 2023

Steven Reinberg. Omega-3s May Keep Your Hearing Sharp. HealthyDay

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