Omega-3 Fat Can Actually Protect Against Hearing Loss

omega-3 fatsIncreased intakes of omega-3 fats may reduce the risk of age-related hearing loss, says a new study.

High omega-3 intake was associated with a significant reduction in the risk of age-related hearing loss (presbycusis) in people over the age of fifty.Hearing loss is the most common sensory disorder in the U.S.

NutraIngredients reports:

"Other micronutrients have been linked to reducing the risk of age-related hearing loss. In 2007 scientists from Wageningen University reported that folic acid supplements delayed age-related hearing loss in the low frequency region ...

Another study ... indicated a role for beta carotene and vitamins C and E, and the mineral magnesium in preventing prevent both temporary and permanent hearing loss in guinea pigs and mice."

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

According to statistics from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), approximately 17 percent, or 36 million American adults suffer from some degree of hearing loss.

Over the age of 45, the prevalence rises to 18 percent. Thirty percent of seniors aged 65-74 years old, and 47 percent of Americans over the age of 75 report having a hearing impairment.

In this study, participants who regularly ate a minimum of two servings of fish per week had a 42 percent reduction in risk of age-related hearing loss, compared to those who ate less than one serving a week.

Although these results are preliminary, and more research is necessary to firmly establish the potential connection between omega-3 fats and hearing, it's a plausible connection since omega-3 fats are so intricately tied to overall health and aging.

What Actually Causes Age-Related Hearing Loss?

Interestingly enough, although some cases of age-related hearing loss stem from mechanical dysfunction or ear-related issues, much of the problem is actually caused by faulty signaling in your brain, affecting how your brain processes information, which results in reduced hearing.

Your brain does an amazing job of sorting, filtering and making sense of all the information that flows through your senses, from colors and shapes seen, to textures and objects felt, to the range of sounds you hear.

It is this sorting and interpreting ability of your brain--not hearing itself--that diminishes with age. Furthermore, it's your brain's ability to provide proper feedback to your ear, by filtering out unwanted information that declines when you reach your 40s and 50s.

Without this "filtering system," you're more likely to be overcome by a mass of sound information that is difficult to sort out.

The good news, however, is that age-related hearing loss doesn't have to happen just because you get older, and may even be retrievable if it does occur.

A Novel Treatment for Hearing Loss

According to Dr. Jonathan Wright, MD, medical director of the Tahoma Clinic in Washington, certain cases of age-related hearing loss may be reversed by increasing a specific bioidentical hormone called aldosterone.

Aldosterone is a type of hormone that is essential to life because it regulates the amounts of electrolytes in your body. Secreted naturally by your adrenal cortex, it simultaneously regulates your sodium and potassium levels, helping to maintain both your blood pressure and bodily fluids.

If aldosterone levels in your body are out of sync, a variety of symptoms can result. Low levels of aldosterone have been indicated in diseases such as diabetes, for example. Your body is amazingly interconnected and being deficient in any nutrient, anti-oxidant, vitamin, mineral or hormone can lead to a whole host of physical dysfunctions, and this may be yet another perfect example of this.

In this case, it appears that low aldosterone levels may negatively affect your hearing.

Dr. Wright is currently seeking research volunteers to further study the use of aldosterone to restore hearing at the Tahoma Clinic.

In one of his reported case studies, an 87-year-old man who was diagnosed with hearing loss in 1994 was found to have low aldosterone levels. After six weeks of taking aldosterone, the man visited his audiologist and found that his hearing had increased 30-50 decibels in one ear, and 20-30 in the other. His ability to discriminate words from a noisy background had also increased significantly.

An animal study has also suggested that the hormone aldosterone was able to restore hearing.

Other hormones have also been shown to have an impact on hearing. In the case of progestin, the synthetic form of progesterone commonly used in conventional hormone replacement therapy has been linked to increased hearing loss in women taking it.

This is exactly why I consistently try to impart the importance of whole nutrition and whole health; eating a diet based on your individual nutritional type, getting proper sleep to allow your body to perform vital restorative functions, and getting sufficient exercise.

A comprehensive healthy lifestyle approach is always going to be your best bet for preventing age-related ailments.

How You Can Protect Yourself Against Hearing Loss

While aging is a natural part of life, it's important to realize there are many things you can do to keep your body young and healthy. It's not a quick fix and there is some effort involved, but the rewards are well worth the effort.

I find Dr. Wright's experience to be an amazing testimony to the power of your body and brain to overcome what is traditionally believed to be irreversible processes, and it reinforces other scientific findings that hearing loss may be either prevented, or greatly restored, through all natural means.

Using energy psychology tools like EFT, for example, can be useful if you are struggling with hearing loss.

Other studies have showed that a combination of vitamins A, C, and E, as well as magnesium, can protect your hearing. NutraIngredients also cites research supporting the use of folic acid to ward off age-related hearing loss.

As for medicines, certain drugs have been linked to hearing loss and deafness. Specific drugs that are ototoxic and can damage your hearing include:

  • Aminoglycoside antibiotics (such as streptomycin, neomycin, kanamycin)
  • Salicylates in large quantities (aspirin)
  • Loop diuretics (lasix, ethacrynic acid)
  • Certain chemotherapy drugs (cisplatin, carboplatin, nitrogen mustard)

Naturally, some hearing loss can be due actual damage to your eardrum, so protecting yourself from loud noises is prevention 101.

Sound is created when noise beats against the eardrum and the vibrations stimulate nerves deep inside your ear. There, fine hair cells called cilia convert the vibrations into nerve impulses, which are transmitted to your brain.

Continued exposure to noise of 85 decibels or more will eventually destroy these fragile hair cells in your inner ear that convert sound vibrations into nerve impulses -- the basis of hearing. The volume of portable compact disc players ranges between 91 and 121 decibels, and earphones increase the volume. The louder the noise, the quicker the hearing loss.

For instance, 100-decibel stereo headphones can cause harm in two hours, and a 120-decibel rock concert damages the ears in only 7.5 minutes. So, using an inexpensive set of ear plugs during loud noise activities is your first step to prevent damage that is not related to the physical process of aging.

+ Sources and References