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BHI Urges Millennials, Gen Xers, and Baby Boomers in Recognition of American Heart Month

Washington, DC, February 19, 2014—The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) is encouraging Millennials, Gen Xers, baby boomers, and all generations to engage in physically active lifestyles for both their hearing and heart health in recognition of American Heart Month. And because an increasing number of studies are showing a link between cardiovascular and hearing health, throughout American Heart Month BHI is encouraging people to take its free, quick, and confidential online hearing check at www.BetterHearing.org to help determine if they need a comprehensive hearing test by a hearing healthcare professional.

Studies have shown that a healthy cardiovascular system—a person’s heart, arteries, and veins—has a positive effect on hearing. Conversely, inadequate blood flow and trauma to the blood vessels of the inner ear can contribute to hearing loss.

BHI is urging all generations to take a proactive approach to protecting their hearing and heart health because a recent study out of Brigham and Women's Hospital published online in The American Journal of Medicine found that a higher level of physical activity is associated with lower risk of hearing loss in women. At the same time, the study found that a higher body mass index (BMI) and larger waist circumference are each associated with higher risk of hearing loss.

Other evidence of a link between cardiovascular and hearing health exists. In fact, the authors of a study published in the American Journal of Audiology concluded that the negative influence of impaired cardiovascular health on both the peripheral and central auditory system—and the potential positive influence of improved cardiovascular health on these same systems—have been found through a sizable body of research conducted over more than six decades.

Could the Ear Be a Window to the Heart?
Some experts—like Charles E. Bishop, AuD, Assistant Professor in the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s Department of Otolaryngology and Communicative Sciences—find the evidence showing a link between cardiovascular and hearing health so compelling that they say the ear may be a window to the heart. Bishop believes the closer the collaboration between medical disciplines the better for the patient. 

“Hearing health should not be assessed in a vacuum,” says Bishop. “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 wellbeing.”

David R. Friedland, MD, PhD, Professor and Vice-Chair of Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, has been studying the relationship between cardiovascular and hearing health for years. He offers up this response:

“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.”

In one study, published in The Laryngoscope, Dr. Friedland and fellow researchers found that audiogram pattern correlates strongly with cerebrovascular and peripheral arterial disease and may represent a screening test for those at risk. They even concluded that patients with low-frequency hearing loss should be regarded as at risk for cardiovascular events, and appropriate referrals should be considered.

About Hearing Aids
Research shows that hearing loss is frequently associated with other physical, mental, and emotional health conditions, and that people who address their hearing loss often experience better quality of life. Eight out of 10 hearing aid users, in fact, say they’re satisfied with the changes that have occurred in their lives specifically due to their hearing aids—from how they feel about themselves to the positive changes they see in their relationships, social interactions, and work lives.

When people with even mild hearing loss use hearing aids, they often improve their job performance; enhance their communication skills; increase their earnings potential; improve their professional and interpersonal relationships; stave off depression; gain an enhanced sense of control over their lives; and better their quality of life.

Here are five little-known facts about today’s modern hearing aids:

  1. They’re virtually invisible. Many of today’s hearing aids sit discreetly and comfortably inside the ear canal, providing both natural sound quality, and discreet and easy use.
  2. They automatically adjust to all kinds of soundscapes. Recent technological advances with directional microphones have made hearing aids far more versatile than ever before—and in a broad range of sound environments.
  3. You can enjoy water sports and sweat while wearing them. Waterproof digital hearing aids have arrived. This feature is built into some newly designed hearing aids for those concerned about water, humidity, and dust. This feature suits the active lifestyles of swimmers, skiers, snowboarders, intensive sports enthusiasts and anyone working in dusty, demanding environments.
  4. They work with smartphones, home entertainment systems and other prized electronics. Wireless, digital hearing aids are now the norm. That means seamless connectivity—directly into your hearing aid(s) at volumes that are just right for you—from your smartphone, MP3 player, television and other high-tech gadgets.
  5. They’re always at the ready. A new rechargeable feature on some newly designed hearing aids allows you to recharge your hearing aids every night, so they’re ready in the morning. It’s super convenient—and there’s no more fumbling with small batteries.

For more information on hearing loss, visit www.BetterHearing.org.