Are you finding it tougher to follow conversations in a noisy restaurant? Or does it seem like people are mumbling when you speak with them?
These are two questions commonly used to screen for hearing loss, which affects more than one-third of people over age 65, according to the National Institutes of Health.
So, what to do to cut the risk?
Women who eat fish regularly have a lower risk of developing hearing loss compared to women who rarely or never eat fish, according to a study published Wednesday in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Women who ate two or more servings of fish per week had a 20 percent lower risk of hearing loss, according to Dr. Sharon Curhan, a researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and co-author of the study.
And though she and her colleagues had a hunch that certain types of fish may be more protective than others, it didn’t turn out that way. “Eating any type of fish — whether it’s tuna, dark fish [like salmon] or light fish was a associated with a lower risk,” Curhan told Shots.
The omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish are linked to a range of health benefits, including cutting the risk of heart disease, depression and possibly, memory loss.
“Omega-3 antioxidants, polyunsaturated fatty acids, and vitamin C have been the focus of a growing body of evidence showing potential hearing benefits,” says Dr. Gordon Hughes, program director of clinical trials for the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, which funded the study.
The findings come by way of the Nurses’ Health Study — yes, that huge, long-term research study that includes more than 100,000 nurses.
The nurses were aged 27 to 42 when they started completing detailed surveys about what they ate and drank. And they were also asked whether they had a hearing problem and, if so, at what age they first noticed it.
The blood flow to the inner ear needs to be very well-regulated and “higher fish consumption may help maintain adequate cochlear blood flow,” Curhan says. This could help protect against hearing damage.
Curhan and her colleagues are not the only researchers to document a connection between fish consumption and hearing. In an Australian study of about 800 men and women, those who ate fish had a lower incidence of hearing loss
And it looks like lots of people have an opportunity for improvement. Curhan points out that only one-third of Americans eat fish once a week, and almost half eat fish only occasionally or not at all.