Hearing loss is linked to a host of negative health outcomes, such as reduced quality of life, relationship struggles, social isolation, and even depression. We now know that there is also a connection between cardiovascular disease and hearing loss, but does that also include high blood pressure? How do you know what to look for and what are the signs?
Cardiovascular disease is simply defined as a disease of the heart or the blood vessels. Anytime your heart muscle isn’t working properly, or blood flow in your veins and arteries is impeded, that is cardiovascular disease. So what about high blood pressure? Is that cardiovascular disease? And what does that have to do with hearing loss?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 70 million adults in the United States have high blood pressure, or hypertension. That amounts to nearly one in three adults. Furthermore, another one in three adults are living with elevated blood pressure results that are below the level considered to be high blood pressure but above the norm. This is referred to as prehypertension. Only half of Americans with high blood pressure have their condition under control. This leads to a multitude of health problems and risks.
While hearing loss can be caused by a variety of factors, it has become clear that high blood pressure may also be a contributing factor of hearing loss. A recent study evaluated the potential association between high blood pressure and hearing loss. In that research, a total of 274 individuals between the ages of 45 and 64 were evaluated. Dr. Mohan Jagade, a physician in the Department of ENT and Head and Neck Surgery, Grant Medical College and J.J. Hospital, and his team discovered that for people with elevated blood pressure, there was a significant increase in the presence of hearing loss. The researchers in the study surmised that hypertension is an accelerating factor in the degeneration of the auditory system and hearing as people age.
The link between high blood pressure and impaired hearing isn’t difficult to understand. When your blood pressure is high, your blood vessels are damaged. This damage isn’t centered in one area of the body – your entire body is affected, including your ears. And when the blood vessels in your ears are damaged – and have a fatty plaque buildup – your hearing could be impaired.
There is also a high correlation between high blood pressure and the incidence of a first stroke. The CDC reports that approximately 8 out of 10 people having a first stroke also have high blood pressure. About ten years ago the American Heart Association published a recap of a large group study on the association between sudden sensorineural hearing loss and stroke. Researchers found that the there is a definitive and clear correlation between the two. The group within the study who had severe hearing loss was more than 150 percent more likely to experience a stroke within two years of the occurrence of a sudden hearing loss! Any potential disturbance in the blood flow to the tiny capillaries in the inner ear can cause permanent and devastating hearing loss, and it is theorized that the presence of high blood pressure impacts the blood flow to the delicate structures in the inner ear.
With an increase in hearing loss, individuals often experience more feelings of isolation, loneliness, and depression. This can lead to lower speech understanding and even greater chance of dementia if left untreated. Because of this, it is strongly recommended that if you have any risk factors for hearing loss, such as high blood pressure, you should have your hearing thoroughly evaluated on an annual basis to detect early hearing loss before it is too late.
If you or someone you know has high blood pressure, visit us at Hearing Consultants today. Then visit your physician to have your blood pressure checked. The two conditions often go hand-in-hand, so recognizing the connection and seeking treatment could save someone’s hearing – or their life.