Hearing loss is commonly attributed to aging. We see lots of seniors wearing hearing aids and assume that is a fait accompli as we grow older.
Recent research however reveals that elevated homocysteine – long associated with cardiovascular and neurological conditions – may also contribute to hearing loss.
The Impact of Hearing Loss
Do you know that hearing loss is one of the most common causes of disability? Hearing loss affects some 360 million people, according to the World Health Organization.
In the United States hearing loss is twice as prevalent as diabetes or cancer, and about half of Americans over age 60 have hearing loss. People with hearing loss tend to suffer socially as communications can be hindered. Yet we, as a society, tacitly accept the decline in hearing.
Recent research has revealed that high homocysteine is linked to hearing loss.
What is Homocysteine?
Homocysteine is an amino acid (a building block of protein) naturally produced in the body from a byproduct of another amino acid called methionine. Healthy amounts of homocysteine are vital in protein metabolism. However, homocysteine levels must be carefully balanced by adequate quantities of specific B vitamins.
Ideally, about half of homocysteine is recycled back into methionine (remethylation), and the other half is converted into a beneficial amino acid called cysteine (transsulfuration). This bifurcated process is dependent on the following B vitamins: Remethylation cannot occur without folate (B9) and vitamin B12. And transsulfuration cannot happen without vitamin B6. If these B vitamins are deficient, dangerous levels of homocysteine can accumulate in the body.
Homocysteine’s Effect on Hearing Loss
Researchers in Spain explored the increasing epidemiological reports of an association between high homocysteine and age-related hearing loss. Published in an April 2017 issue of Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience, their findings confirmed that elevated homocysteine is strongly connected to age-related deafness. In addition, the study highlighted the importance of nutritional supplementation as a potential way of preventing hearing loss.
What is a Healthy Homocysteine Level?
Homocysteine levels are easily evaluated by a simple test of blood plasma. Heath care practitioners can order a homocysteine test. But guess what? We are not routinely tested for homocysteine. In fact, I never had been tested for this important amino acid until I recently requested the test from my primary care physician. (Read on for my homocysteine score.)
To further exacerbate the issue of homocysteine evaluation, many clinical testing laboratories consider a healthy homocysteine value between 5 and up to 15 µmol/L. However, the upper limit of this range is highly misleading. A score of 6 µmol/L or less is optimal for homocysteine. Medical research has indicated that readings greater than 9 µmol/L indicate an increased risk for heart disease.
The good news is that elevated homocysteine levels can be decreased by consuming adequate amounts of the B vitamins B6, folate, and B12. Although the daily dosage of these vitamins is dependent upon your homocysteine score, I offer general guidelines:
Fish and lean meats are excellent sources of vitamin B6 (pyridoxine). Consider taking a 25-mg B6 supplement.
Foods rich in folate (vitamin B9) include wheat germ, lentils, sunflower seeds, spinach, broccoli, and romaine lettuce. If you are considering a supplement, note that “folate” is natural and “folic acid” is synthetic. Consider taking a daily 400-mcg folate capsule containing L-5-MTHF.
The best food sources of vitamin B12 include sardines, oysters, cottage cheese, and tuna. When supplementing with B12, please ensure the B12 is methyl, adenosyl and/or hydroxyl B12. Beware of common B12 supplements that contain cyanocobalamin; yes, it contains a cyanide molecule. Consider taking 10mcg daily of B12.
You may recall that the amino acid methionine produces homocysteine. Too much methionine translates to excessive homocysteine. As animal protein is highly rich in methionine, it is wise to not overload animal protein consumption if the three major B vitamins are deficient.
Stunning Health Statistics
The scope of this article is limited to a brief discussion of elevated homocysteine as a risk factor for hearing loss. It is important to note that homocysteine levels also affect the risk for developing a wide range of other serious medical conditions including cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, thyroid disorders, and Alzheimer’s disease. Let’s take a broad look at statistics.
Nestled in the spectacular western fjords of Norway, the University of Bergen houses one of the world’s leading homocysteine research centers. Since the 1990s, Bergen’s researchers have published dozens of papers reporting their homocysteine findings conducted during the University’s population-based Hordaland Homocysteine Study.
Having measured the homocysteine levels of 4,766 Norwegian men and women in their 60s a decade ago and then recorded those who lived and died, the researchers discovered that a 5-point decrease in homocysteine scores predicted, inter alia, a 50 percent reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease as well as a 104 percent decreased risk of mortality from any disease or medical condition other than heart disease or cancer!
Are You Homocysteine Healthy?
It is not too early or too late to learn your homocysteine score. At the age of 60 and with a family history of heart disease, I requested a baseline homocysteine blood plasma test from my doctor. My score was an optimal 6µmol/L, a value that is most common in preteens! I attribute my homocysteine health score to feeding my body the B6, folate, and B12 it needs to maintain a balanced level of homocysteine.
Your level will predict your risk for diminished hearing function as well as heart and other serious diseases. It also will help you understand how you can add energy and vitality to your life. Based on your homocysteine score, you can supplement with the necessary foods and/or dietary supplements that are readily available in retail and online outlets. And enjoy the benefits of being homocysteine healthy! At the age of 64, I have healthy hearing.
Reference 1: Life Extension Magazine. April 2018. Pp 67-70.
Reference 2: Partearroyo, T. et al. “Cochlear Homocysteine Metabolism at the Crossroad of Nutrition and Sensorineural Hearing Loss.” Front Mol Neuroscience. 2017 April 25; 10:107.
Note: The enzyme MTHFR (methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase) helps to facilitate the conversion process of remethylation.
Editor’s Note: Susan Rex Ryan is the author of the Mom’s Choice Award®-winning book Defend Your Life about the extensive health benefits of vitamin D. She also is the author of the new book entitled Silent Inheritance: Are You Predisposed to Depression? that discusses methylation and how it affects depression. For additional information about health, check out Sue’s many articles at smilinsuepubs.com. Follow Sue on Twitter @VitD3Sue.
Copyright © 2018 by Smilin Sue Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.