Consumption of two or more servings of fish each week could lessen the risk of hearing loss in women, according to HMS researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Their study, which investigated whether the consumption of fatty acids, such as those found in fish, influenced hearing loss in females, was reported in the November 2014 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The research team was led by Sharon Curhan ’87, an HMS instructor in medicine at Brigham and Women’s and part of the hospital’s Channing Division of Network Medicine. Gary Curhan ’85, an HMS professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s and the Channing Division, is corresponding author.
“Although a decline in hearing is often considered an inevitable aspect of aging,” write the authors, “the identification of several potentially modifiable risk factors offers the possibility of preventing or delaying acquired hearing loss.”
Although there has been evidence suggesting that a higher intake of fish and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids may decrease the risk of hearing loss, prospective data have been limited. This prospective study looked at links between the total consumption of fish, the consumption of specific types of fish, and the consumption of the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids they contain, and self-reported hearing loss in women. Fish types included shellfish and finfish such as tuna (canned and fresh), salmon, mackerel, cod, and haddock.
Data were taken from the Nurses’ Health Study II, an ongoing cohort study that began in 1989. For the Curhans’ study, 65,215 women from this group were followed from 1991 to 2009; 11,606 cases of incident hearing loss were reported. When the researchers compared hearing loss in women who rarely consumed fish with that in women who consumed two or more servings of fish per week, they found that the women who regularly ate fish had a 20 percent lower risk of developing hearing loss. When the researchers also looked at the effects of increased consumption of each type of fish, the decrease in risk remained. In addition, a higher intake of the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids in the fish also resulted in a decreased risk of hearing loss.
The findings indicate that the participants’ consumption of any type of fish—tuna, dark fish, light fish, or shellfish—tended to be associated with lower risk.