Higher Intakes of DHA/EPA or Fish and Reduced Hearing Loss with Aging

September 20, 2010


Consumption of Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Fish and Risk of Age-related Hearing Loss
Gopinath, B. et al., American J. of Clinical Nutition, 92: 416-421, 2010
Centre for Vision Research, Dept. of Ophthamology, Univ. of Sydney, Sydney,Australia


‘Presbycusis’ or age-related hearing loss is a common and often under-diagnosed health problem in the aging population with the number of cases increasing as life expectancy is improved. The present population study from Australia (the Blue Mountains Hearing Study) measured fish and long-chain omega-3 intakes at baseline in 3654 participants (ages equal to or greater than 50 years) as the sum of DHA plus EPA plus DPA (docosapentaenoic acid)  using food-frequency questionnaires and food composition tables.  Audiometric testing was done at baseline and at the 5-year follow-up in 75 % of the subjects.  Those participants who reported eating two or more fish servings/week at baseline exhibited a 42 % lower risk of developing age-related hearing loss (defined as a hearing loss of greater than 25 decibels) on re-testing at 5 years later as compared to those who consumed less than one serving of fish/week.

Furthermore, a higher dietary intake of the summed long-chain omega-3 fatty acids was associated with a 24 %  lower risk of developing age-related hearing loss over this period. The authors suggested that a relatively simple prevention strategy of increasing fish and long-chain omega-3 consumption could be beneficial in reducing the rise in age-related hearing loss. 

Dr. Holub's Comments:

The present study represents the first population-based study which has evaluated the relationship between fish and long-chain omega-3 intakes and age-related hearing loss.  It is likely that the known cardiovascular benefits of (DHA/EPA/DPA) including improved vascular functioning and blood supply are related to any significant benefits on the auditory system. It would have been of interest if the authors had differentiated between DHA versus EPA versus DPA in the relative relationships to preserving auditory function with aging. Finally, randomized clinical trials using supplemental omega-3 versus placebo  in those at risk of age-related hearing loss will be of future interest.

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