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A Link between Hearing Loss & Cardiovascular Disease

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Dr. Timothy Teague, AuD

The heart is one of the most essential organs in the human body, with the task of pumping enough blood to deliver a continuous supply of oxygen and other nutrients to the brain and throughout the body. It is no wonder that cardiovascular disease is one of the most common killers in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reports that Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, killing an individual every 36 seconds. As of 2019, an estimated 659,000 people in the US die from heart disease each year— equaling roughly 1 in every 4 deaths. Heart health is essential to overall well-being. It can be shocking how vast the effects of the heart and blood vessels throughout the body are. As hearing healthcare specialists, we are particularly concerned with hearing health. This is why we need to draw attention to the often-overlooked side effect of cardiovascular disease – hearing loss.

 

Understanding Cardiovascular Disease

 

Cardiovascular disease is a general term for health issues concerning the heart or blood vessels and it usually is associated with a build-up of fatty deposits inside the arteries which increased the risk of heart attack, stroke, and blood clots. While the exact cause of cardiovascular disease is not strait forward what we do understand is that the more risk factors you have, the greater your chances are of being affected. Some of these include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Inactivity
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Family history of CVD

 

Hearing Loss and Heart Disease

Strange enough, many of the risks of heart disease overlap with risk factors for sensorineural hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type. It is a permanent condition in which tiny hair-like cells called stereocilia become damaged or destroyed. Stereocilia are incredibly fragile and responsible for sending sound information collected in the ears to be delivered to the brain. It is only after the brain receives the signal from the ear that you can understand speech, identify sound and determine which direction and proximity it is coming from. This can lead to serious communication and mobility issues when left undiagnosed and untreated. The stereocilia are so fragile that a change in blood flow can quickly damage the tiny working parts of the inner ear. An unhealthy cardiovascular system may slow or block blood flow to the inner ear, causing sensorineural hearing loss. 

 

Studies Connecting Hearing Loss and Heart Disease 

A study from Harvard University cross-referenced health data and identified a significant connection between heart disease and hearing loss. They found that hearing loss was 54 percent more common in those who also had cardiovascular disease. To compound this information, a 2018 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology titled “Environmental Noise and the Cardiovascular Systemfound that excessive noise exposure over years increases stress levels, which is a recognized risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Managing Hearing Loss and Heart Disease

If you are concerned about your heart health and your hearing health, a few lifestyle changes can go a long way. If you are a smoker, it is never too late to quit. If you drink excessively, now is always a good time to cut down or seek treatment. If you are diabetic, pay attention to your processed sugar intake and start prioritizing a diet rich in vegetables and lean meats now. If you need to exercise a little more, look at it as an exciting challenge rather than a daunting task. Regular exercise three times a week or more can boost your mood and cut down on your risk of cardiovascular disease and hearing loss all at the same time.

 

Seeking Help

Hearing Loss is permanent but that doesn’t mean it isn’t treatable. Hearing aids are the most common treatment for sensorineural hearing loss and can help you stay connected, join in with conversations, stay active and healthy for years to come. Of course, the first step is to schedule a hearing exam today. We can diagnose the extent of your hearing loss and help you find the best solution to help you hear clear and keep your heart health at the top of its game.