How Does Heart Health Impact Hearing Health?

With February upon us and Valentine’s Day right around the corner, we decided to take a look at research concerning how heart health and hearing health are connected!

Research data reveals a link between hearing health and cardiovascular health. In fact, the two often correspond, a healthy cardiovascular system appears to have a positive effect on hearing. Study findings suggest that a healthy heart and cardiovascular system may be important for healthy hearing.

 

Let’s take a closer look at why the two are connected. Researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin have been studying the relationship between hearing health and cardiovascular health for many years. Professor and Vice Chair of Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences David R. Friedland, M.D., Ph.D. 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.”

 

Our complex hearing systems are sensitive to changes in blood flow and inadequate blood flow can damage hearing. Researchers theorize that hearing loss can result from damage to blood vessels in the inner ear. Damaged blood vessels reduce blood flow, causing possible permanent damage to the structures in the inner ear. Unlike other structures in our bodies, the inner ear does not have a backup supply of blood flow, leaving it vulnerable to damage with inadequate blood flow.

 

Researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin found correlations between certain audiometric patterns and arterial disease. One pattern, referred to as a reverse slope audiogram, which identifies low-frequency hearing loss, may suggest the presence or potential development of cardiovascular disease. The study, published in The Laryngoscope, prompts hearing professionals to consider making a referral to assess cardiovascular health and additional risk factors after low-frequency hearing loss has been identified.

 

The link between hearing health and cardiovascular health is strong. Hearing loss is seldom found in isolation. In fact, the opposite is true, it is often accompanied by other health conditions. The connection between hearing health and cardiovascular health has led many professionals to believe the ear may be a window into the heart. 

 

According to audiologist Charles E. Bishop, Assistant Professor in the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s Department of Otolaryngology and Communicative Sciences, “Hearing health should not be assessed in a vacuum. There is simply too much evidence that hearing loss is related to cardiovascular disease and other health conditions. It’s time we maximized the information we have in order to benefit the individual’s overall well-being.”

 

Research from Miami University found that the higher the level of cardiovascular fitness, the better the hearing for older research participants (June 2010 American Journal of Audiology). An active lifestyle can improve cardiovascular health and increase blood flow to the ear. According to the American Journal of Medicine, increased physical activity can actually decrease your risk for hearing loss. The American Heart Association also recommends maintaining a healthy diet and keeping blood pressure within a healthy range.

 

In light of the link between cardiovascular health and hearing health, The Better Hearing Institute recommends annual hearing evaluations for individuals age 40 and older as part of their annual routine medical screenings. Individuals with risk factors for developing heart disease and those who have already been diagnosed should be especially vigilant about hearing health. Additional cardiovascular disease risk factors, that can also increase the risk of hearing loss, include a sedentary lifestyle, increased body mass index and a large waist circumference.

 

 

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An original version of this blog first appeared on www.starkey.com by audiologist Beth McCormick.