Your heart and ears have a lot in common. Love them both during American Heart Month.
People tend to take matters of the heart very seriously—and they tend to brush off hearing loss as inconsequential. But the truth is, your heart and ears have a lot more in common than most people realize.
In fact, decades of research point to a link between cardiovascular and hearing health.
Specifically, Raymond H. Hull, PhD, professor of communication sciences and disorders in audiology and neurosciences at Wichita State University, and Stacy R. Kerschen, AuD, conducted an analysis of 84 years of work from scientists worldwide on the link between cardiovascular health and the ability to hear and understand what others are saying. Their work, which reviewed 70 scientific studies, confirmed a direct link. The findings of their analysis also suggest that hearing loss may be an early sign of cardiovascular disease.
“Our entire auditory system, especially the blood vessels of the inner ear, needs an oxygen-rich nutrient supply,” says Hull. “If it doesn't get it due to cardiovascular health problems, then hearing can be affected."
Other research suggests that hearing loss may be an early sign of cardiovascular disease in seemingly healthy middle-aged people, and even found that hearing loss is common in people in their forties.
David R. Friedland, MD, PhD, Professor and Vice-Chair of Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, went so far as to conclude from his study that patients with low-frequency hearing loss should be regarded as at risk for cardiovascular events, and appropriate referrals should be considered.
He explains the heart-hearing link like this:
“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.”
Other experts find the evidence so compelling they say the ear may be a window to the heart and encourage collaboration among hearing care providers, cardiologists, and other healthcare professionals.
So, go ahead. For American Heart Month in February, take the Better Hearing Institute’s (BHI) free, quick, and confidential online hearing check at www.BetterHearing.org to determine if you need a comprehensive hearing test by a hearing care professional.
5 random things your heart and ears have in common
- Someone with heart disease is at a higher risk of depression—and someone with unaddressed hearing loss is at a higher risk of depression. But BHI research shows that people with hearing loss who use hearing aids are more likely to be optimistic and feel engaged in life.
- Exercise is good for your heart—and exercise is good for your ears. One study found that a higher level of physical activity is associated with a lower risk of hearing loss in women.
- Smoking hurts your heart—and it’s really bad for your ears too. Research shows that both smokers and passive smokers are more likely to suffer hearing loss.
- Your heart and ears love omega-3 fatty acids. Research found that regular fish consumption and higher intake of long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are associated with a lower risk of hearing loss in women.
- Obesity puts people at risk for heart disease—and it affects hearing function. A number of studies show a link between obesity and hearing loss. One looked at women (18 to 40 years old) and found a link. Another uncovered a connection between higher BMI and a larger waist circumference, and hearing loss in women.
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