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Cardiologist, author, and heart health expert Dr. Sarah Samaan offers advice on how to live a heart smart life.

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What’s that You Say? Cholesterol and Hearing Loss

New study reports that cholesterol can impact age-related hearing loss.

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We all know that cholesterol is strongly linked to cardiovascular disease, and that lowering cholesterol levels can reduce our risks of heart attacks and strokes. But a recent study from the Centre for Vision Research at the University of Sydney in Australia reports that cholesterol, other fats, and cholesterol medications can also impact age-related hearing loss.

In this study, published in the May 25, 2011 edition of The Journal of Nutrition, nearly 3,000 people aged 50 and over were evaluated for hearing loss at baseline and again five years later. Detailed dietary and medical information was obtained as well. After five years, those whose diets were highest in cholesterol had significantly more hearing loss than those who ate very little cholesterol at all. Conversely, a diet high in monounsaturated fats (like canola oil and olive oil) appeared to be protective. And those who took statin drugs, typically prescribed to lower cholesterol, had about a 50 percent lower likelihood to have suffered significant hearing loss over the five years than those who were not on statins.

A similar study from the same group last year also showed a protective effect of fish and omega-3 fatty acids. In that study, people whose diet included more omega-3 fats and people who ate fish at least twice every week were less likely to show signs of hearing loss.

People who are born deaf often do not consider their deafness a disability, but rather a singular way to experience the world and a particular cultural identity.  But for people who develop hearing loss later in life, the ability to hear has a huge impact on the ability to engage in the workforce, participate in conversation, and enjoy the sounds of music. It’s great to know that the steps we take to keep our hearts and brains healthy can also affect our quality of life in such a profound way.

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Tags: Cholesterol and Lipids

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About the Author


MD, FACC

Dr. Samaan is an acclaimed cardiologist, writer, and heart health educator.

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