Omega-3-rich foods have long been considered the holy grail for treating heart ailments, Alzheimer's and dementia. A new study reveals they may also help in delaying age-related hearing loss.

Omega-3-rich foods have become widely recognized for their numerous health advantages.These fatty acids are vital for supporting the proper functioning of cells throughout the body.

There are three primary types of Omega-3 fatty acids: Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) – both found in fish and other marine sources, and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), found in plant-based foods.

These fats are considered "healthy" fats, known for their positive effects on heart health by reducing triglyceride levels, boosting HDL (good) cholesterol and helping to maintain blood pressure within a healthy range.

The latest study, presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Nutrition in Boston on Monday, showed that people with higher levels of DHA had a reduced risk of developing age-related hearing loss. The findings suggested middle-aged participants were less likely to experience hearing impairment as they aged.

"Our study suggests a role for DHA in maintaining auditory function and helping reduce the risk of age-related hearing loss," study author Michael I. McBurney, a senior scientist with the Fatty Acid Research Institute, said in a news release.

The participants were asked a set of questions and a "yes" to any of those meant they have undetected hearing loss.

  • Do you have difficulty hearing?
  • Do you find it difficult to follow a conversation if there is background noise, such as TV, radio, or a dinner party?
  • Do you use a hearing aid most of the time?

The study found that around two out of five people had trouble with their hearing. A little over one-quarter of them had difficulty hearing when there was background noise, and about 5% of them were using hearing aids.

The findings established a compelling link between DHA levels and hearing health, researchers said. People with the highest levels of DHA in their blood demonstrated a remarkable 16% lower likelihood of experiencing general hearing difficulty compared to those with the lowest levels.

Those with elevated DHA levels were 11% less likely to encounter challenges in understanding conversations in noisy environments, in contrast to individuals with lower DHA levels. The bottom line is that maintaining higher DHA levels may help preserve hearing function and improve communication abilities, especially in challenging auditory situations.

According to Dr. David R. Friedman, a specialist in hearing issues and skull base disorders at NYU Langone Medical Center, the new research supports previous studies suggesting that omega fatty acids could help reduce inflammation in blood vessels and possibly better hearing capacities.

"This study is in keeping with some prior research that provides some basis that omega-3 is good for your vasculature [blood vessels] and could support inner ear health," Dr. Friedmann, who was not involved in the study, told Everyday Health. "If the labyrinthine artery [the primary source of blood for the inner ear] were obstructed by plaque or vascular disease, that would potentially have implications for causing hearing loss."