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Keep your Hearing in Check with Omega-3s
By Jolie Root, LPN, LNC

Among the many expected benefits of eating fish and/or taking the marine omega-3 supplements from fish are: better heart health, healthier brain aging, and resolution of painful inflammatory conditions. But a surprising new benefit was linked to fish consumption earlier this year.

Two studies in populations in the Netherlands and Australia looked at the relationship between fish or seafood omega-3 fatty acid consumption and hearing loss in older adults. What possible link could there be between seafood and better hearing? The link is likely to be plaque in the arteries, which would mean poor blood supply to the ear, contributing to the loss or damage of cells in the ear that enable us to hear.

When the tiny hairs inside the ear become damaged or die, we cannot replace them. These sensory cells are responsible for sending chemical signals to nerve cells that process sounds. Damage or loss of the sensory cells leads to the development of age-related hearing loss. This happens more often in people who have a family history of this type of hearing loss. Another factor that increases risk of this type of damage is consistent exposure to loud noises, especially firearms.

In earlier studies, age-related hearing loss was linked to heart and blood vessel disease as well as diabetes. Because heart disease and diabetes are conditions in which higher levels of omega-3s are protective, it would not be surprising to learn that the fish-derived fats protect our hearing too. In the Dutch study, the investigators tested hearing and then estimated the participants' fish consumption using a dietary questionnaire. After three years, they tested the hearing again looking to link changes in hearing to omega-3 intake. They discovered that hearing losses were greatest in those with the lowest consumption of seafood omega-3s.

In the Australian study, participants had their hearing evaluated at the beginning of the study and after five years. Their fish and seafood omega-3 intake was assessed at the beginning of the trial. Those with the highest omega-3 consumption were about 10% less likely to have hearing loss compared to those in the lowest-intake category.

Both studies observed significantly less hearing loss in older adults with high intake of fish. After hearing loss was detected, those who ate fish once to twice a week experienced about half the rate of deterioration in their hearing over five years as compared to those who ate fish less than once a week.

Historically, both age-related hearing loss and heart disease occur more frequently in men than in women. While heart disease risk in women begins to equal that of men as women pass the age of menopause, hearing loss is five times more common in men than women. With the aging of our largest segment of society, the baby boomers, age-related hearing loss is now twice as common as it was in the 1970s. This means men, and older men in particular, should take care to eat fish more often.

In previous studies, the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA have been shown to slow atherosclerosis, the process by which harmful plaque develops on artery walls. This process occurs over many years, even several decades. If the plaque growth is slowed and the blood vessel walls are kept healthy, a heart attack is unlikely.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), although the mechanisms responsible for omega-3 fatty acids' reduction of CVD (cardiovascular disease) risk are still being studied, research has shown:

      Decreased risk of sudden death and arrhythmia
      Decreased thrombosis (blood clot)
      Decreased triglyceride levels
      Decreased growth of atherosclerotic plaque
      Improved arterial health
      Lower blood pressure
The AHA suggests a daily dose of 1,000 mg combined EPA and DHA for anyone who has any evidence of coronary heart disease, and 2,000 to 4,000 mg daily for anyone who has elevated triglycerides.

An innovative marine source of omega-3 has recently burst onto the scene. The products are naturally high in the omega-3 DHA while providing additional amounts of the omega-3 EPA as well. The oil is an eco-friendly omega-3 sourced from calamari. Yes, the delicacy enjoyed worldwide is also a source of marine oil that provides the two most important omega-3s! The raw materials used to obtain the DHA and EPA are derivatives from the food production of calamari, which is particularly sustainable due to the sea creature's short lifespan and rapid repopulation of stocks. Obtaining the DHA and EPA only requires using the leftover raw material already being fished in an eco-friendly manner for food supply. Also, the fishing methods protect the delicate ocean environment, specifically the ocean floor and the coral reefs. Carlson offers products from this novel source, called CalaOmega,available in softgels or liquid. Both of these exciting products provide high amounts of omega-3s.

This year's research hints that taking omega-3s to protect your heart may also protect your hearing too!


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