February is American Heart Month and a good time to discuss the link between hearing loss and cardiovascular disease. (Hint: It’s all about the blood flow.)
Cardiovascular disease, or heart disease, refers to a number of conditions that cause narrowed or blocked blood vessels and contribute to heart attacks, chest pain, or stroke. Our auditory system depends on an oxygen-rich blood flow. The tiny hair cells in the inner ear responsible for conducting sound to the brain can be damaged if sufficient oxygen through the blood is unavailable due to the narrowed or blocked blood vessels. This cell damage is what causes permanent hearing loss.
Maintaining a healthy heart can reduce your risk or help prevent further hearing loss. Many of the things you can do to take care of your heart will also help protect your hearing:
Avoid smoking: Smoking is known to be harmful to your heart and your inner ears. Read more about the relationship between smoking and hearing health.
Exercise: Exercise helps increase blood flow (among many other benefits)! Exercising for 20-30 minutes per day, four or five days a week, can contribute to a healthy heart and healthy hearing.
Nutrition: A heart-healthy diet can help improve your hearing and prevent further hearing loss. Click here to read more about foods to consume and avoid.
Research from Harvard University found that hearing loss occurs 54 percent more often in people with heart disease, compared to the general population. Researchers also hypothesize that low frequency hearing loss - especially in people who are middle-aged or younger - could be an indicator of the presence or potential development of cardiovascular disease.
If you already have hearing loss, it’s important to speak to your healthcare professional about whether it might indicate heart disease, as well. If you suspect you have hearing loss, its connection to your heart health should be reason enough to get your hearing tested.
If you or someone you know are concerned about your hearing, feel free to contact us or take our hearing questionnaire.