Your Heart Could Be to Blame for Hearing Loss

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August 5, 2017
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September 9, 2017

 

“The human body is the most complex system ever created. The more we learn about it, the more appreciation we have about what a rich system it is.”

  • Bill Gates

Bill Gates had it right when he said this.  There is no doubt that the human body is infinitely complex.  The more science learns about this “rich system,” the more we all understand how seemingly unrelated systems and symptoms in the body can tell us so much about the body as a whole.  This includes the connection between heart health and hearing loss.

As more and more Americans are affected by a loss of hearing, researchers are turning their attention to how this loss may impact other areas of health.  In recent years, scientists have examined hearing impairment and its connection to increased risk of dementia and depression. As science is digging into hearing health, many are now seeing hearing loss as an early indicator of cardiovascular problems such as heart disease and stroke.

  • One of the most interesting studies on the topic, conducted across several groups around the world and over many years starting in the early 1960’s, was one of the first to take a closer look at hearing and cardiovascular health.  Researchers looked at diet, the incidence of heart disease and hearing ability across the populations and age groups. The data, again and again, reinforced the theory that heart health and blood flow, not just age and exposure to noise, plays a role in hearing loss.
  • The “Relation of Hearing in the Elderly to the Presence of Cardiovascular Disease and Cardiovascular Risk Factors” study found a “small but statistically significant association of cardiovascular disease and hearing status in the elderly.” While researchers are quick to point out that further research is needed, it seems there is a connection.
  • In one study, researchers studied the potential link between sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL) and stroke risk. “Our findings suggest that SSNHL can be an early warning sign of impending stroke.” Researchers concluded that those experiencing this type of hearing loss should see a physician immediately.

The research to this point may be limited, but many hypothesize that the connection lies in blood flow to the ear.  When blood flow to the inner workings of the ear is compromised, hearing problems can be the result. it’s clear that there is a connection between hearing and heart health.  

The good news is that with the right lifestyle choices, you can begin improving your heart health at any time.  Working with your physician to run tests and get a baseline for your heart and overall health (as you would work with a hearing health care provider to manage your hearing), is the best place to start.  Doctors and dietitians you work with may recommend changes such as these to improve cardiovascular health:

  • Adopt a heart-healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and low-fat dairy.  Plant-based proteins and fish are great options for lean protein that supports heart health. MyPlate provides a variety of resources and recipes to help.
  • Move more throughout the week. It may be as simple as a daily walk to get started.
  • Find your healthy weight. If you do carry extra weight, losing just 10% can make a significant impact on your overall health.

If you are affected by hearing loss, it may be time to take a closer look at your heart and cardiovascular system. Work with your hearing health care provider and doctor to keep your “complex system” of a human body functioning at its best!

 

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