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Friday, November 22, 2019

Healthy Diet Tied to Lower Risk of Hearing Loss

Eating a healthy diet has been associated with lower risk of heart disease, stroke, and many other conditions, and now a new study found it may also reduce the risk of acquired hearing loss (Am J Epidemiol. 2019 Oct 14. pii: kwz223. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwz223. [Epub ahead of print]). Using over 20 years of dietary intake information from the Nurses' Health Study II Conservation of Hearing Study (CHEARS), researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital investigated how closely participants' long-term diets. They also trained teams of licensed audiologists to follow standardized CHEARS methods, and the audiologists measured changes in pure-tone hearing thresholds in 19 test sites across the United States over the course of three years. The team found that the odds of a decline in mid-frequency hearing sensitivities were almost 30 percent lower among those whose diets most closely resembled healthful dietary patterns, compared with women whose diets least resembled the healthful dietary patterns. The odds were up to 25 percent lower in the higher frequencies.

Lead author Sharon Curhan, MD, a physician and an epidemiologist in the Brigham's Channing Division of Network Medicine, said the association between diet and hearing sensitivity decline encompassed frequencies that are critical for speech understanding. "We were surprised that so many women demonstrated hearing decline over such a relatively short period of time," she said. "The mean age of the women in our study was 59 years; most of our participants were in their 50s and early 60s. This is a younger age than when many people think about having their hearing checked. After only three years, 19 percent had hearing loss in the low frequencies, 38 percent had hearing loss in the mid-frequencies, and almost half had hearing loss in the higher frequencies. Despite this considerable worsening in their hearing sensitivities, hearing loss among many of these participants would not typically be detected or addressed."