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The link between hearing loss and heart health

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The link between hearing loss and heart health

You’ve heard it time and again, and probably from your physician during your annual physical: a healthy heart is the key to a healthy life. And it’s not without good reason that health practitioners advise you to take care of your cardiovascular health. 

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women around the world. Every year, 750,000 Americans have a heart attack, and about 1 in every 10 deaths in the United States can be attributed to cardiovascular disease.    

But did you know that your heart health can have major impacts on your hearing health? Research shows that changes in your hearing health can indicate changes in your heart health you may not have realized have taken place.    

Hearing loss and cardiovascular health

A study published in The Laryngoscope illustrates more clearly the link between your heart and your ears. The study demonstrated that people who suffer from low-frequency hearing loss may be at risk for experiencing heart-related health problems, including hearing failure, hypertension and diabetes.

The common thread among most major heart health issues connected to hearing loss is likely arteriosclerosis. Arteriosclerosis is the hardening and blockage of essential arteries that bring food and oxygen to the cells that need it—including the tiny hair cells in your ear responsible for hearing and processing sounds.

Think of it as a car trying to run on an empty tank of gas. Without the proper fuel, the car will stop functioning, and the same goes for the hair cells in your ear. With limited blood flow, they will not get enough of the fuel they need to function properly. Therefore, it pays to pay attention to your cardiovascular health and ensure “fuel” is making it to the right places.

Hearing health and heart disease

Some studies have shown that hearing loss could potentially be linked to heart failure.

According to one study, “among individuals with heart failure, the prevalence of hearing loss was 74.4%, versus 63.3% among those without heart failure.” Overall, participants of the study who had heart failure had higher odds of mild or greater hearing loss compared to those without heart failure.’’

Conversely, another study by researchers at Miami University revealed a positive relationship between hearing health and exercise.

Researchers observed the hearing acuity of participants ranging in age from 22 – 78 years old after a few minutes of strenuous physical activity. Those with higher cardiovascular fitness levels had better hearing, especially among those age 50 and older.

Hearing health and diabetes

Among the many complications of diabetes—including decreased kidney function and high blood pressure – hearing loss could be a symptom of this condition. Once again, damage to nerves and blood vessels that is common in those with diabetes can prevent essential nutrients from reaching your ears.

Several bodies of research have established diabetes as a clear risk factor for hearing loss, and some experts have come to consider hearing loss an under-recognized symptom of diabetes.  

Hearing health and high blood pressure

As one of the most common chronic conditions, an estimated 103 million Americans are considered to have high blood pressure, according to Reuters. High blood pressure—otherwise known as hypertension—can put a strain on your cardiovascular system, increasing your chance of heart health issues as well as hearing loss. 

Research has shown that people with high blood pressure “have greater increase in hearing threshold” than those who don’t. In other words, hearing abilities can diminish if your blood pressure is too high for too long. Another study with over 60 years of compiled research shows that making efforts to improve your heart health can also improve your hearing health.

While statistics can seem dim, studies show that a healthy cardiovascular landscape—including your blood, arteries, veins, and heart—have a positive impact on your health.

David R. Friedland, M.D., Ph.D., Professor and Vice-Chair of Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee explains, “The inner ear is so sensitive to blood flow that it is possible that abnormalities in the cardiovascular system could be noted here earlier than in other less sensitive parts of the body.”

As previously mentioned, maintaining your body through activity can both contribute to better overall health. Taking the right steps to take care of your heart, including exercising regularly, eating well and taking measures to reduce stress all have positive impacts on your heart health—and your hearing health, as well!

You don’t have to wait to get proactive about your hearing—start today with our free online hearing test. Take it from the comfort of your own computer and get your results instantly. 

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