MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Sharon G. Curhan, MD, ScM
Channing Division of Network Medicine
Department of Internal Medicine
Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Harvard Medical School
Boston, MA 02115
Medical Research: What are the main findings of the study?
Dr. Curhan: We followed more than 65,000 women who were participants in the Nurses’ Health Study II over 18 years and found that eating 2 or more servings of fish per week was associated with a lower risk of hearing loss. For example, after adjusting for potential confounders in multivariable analyses, in comparison with women who rarely or never ate fish, women who consumed 2 or more servings of fish per week had a 20% lower risk of hearing loss. Eating any type of fish (tuna, dark fish, light fish or shellfish) tended to be associated with lower risk. Also, we found that higher intake of long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) was inversely associated with risk. For example, in comparison with women with the lowest intake, women with the highest intake of long-chain omega-3 PUFAs had a 22% lower risk of hearing loss.
Medical Research: Were any of the findings unexpected?
Dr. Curhan: Our hypothesis was that higher fish intake and higher intake of long-chain omega-3 PUFAs are associated with lower risk of hearing loss. However, we did not know whether there might be substantial differences depending the specific type of fish consumed. When examined individually, and adjusting for consumption of the other fish types as well as other potential confounders in our multivariable analyses, we found that higher consumption of each specific fish type was inversely associated with risk of hearing loss.
Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Dr. Curhan: Acquired hearing loss is an extremely common and often disabling condition that can adversely effect communication, quality of life, work productivity and health. According to recent estimates, 48 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss. Commonly, hearing loss is considered to be an unavoidable companion to aging, hover, hearing loss may not be inevitable.
A complex interaction of factors all contribute to acquired hearing loss, including lifestyle and environmental factors, age, genetics, noise exposure, and some medical conditions and medications. However, at least some of hearing loss may be preventable and there may be factors that can be modified to help prevent or delay its onset. These findings provide evidence that modifiable dietary risk factors may help reduce the risk of hearing loss.
Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Dr. Curhan: Our study examined a predominantly white population of women. It will be important to examine these relations in men and in other populations.