Hearing Loss and Heart Disease
Did you know there is a connection between hearing health and heart health? The body is full of individual systems that are more intertwined than you might imagine. Practicing healthy habits often benefits your body in more ways than you'd expect.
Learn about that link and what you can do to strengthen both your hearing health and your cardiovascular health.
About heart disease
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women in the United States, representing in one in four deaths every year. The good news is that many forms of heart disease can be prevented through healthy lifestyle choices.
The terms heart disease and cardiovascular disease are often used interchangeably. They describe a range of diseases and conditions that affect your heart.
While most people experience moments or brief periods of hearing ringing in the ears at some time in their lives (usually after extended exposure to a noisy environment or following a sudden, extremely loud sound), some people experience tinnitus more regularly.
Types of heart diseases
Atherosclerotic disease: the hardening and narrowing of the arteries due to the build-up of fats, cholesterol and other substances.
Heart arrhythmias: abnormal heartbeats, whether irregular, too fast or too slow.
Congenital heart defect: a heart abnormality you’re born with.
Dilated cardiomyopathy: the heart becomes enlarged and cannot pump blood effectively.
Endocarditis: an infection of the heart’s inner lining, typically involving the heart valves.
Valvular heart disease: damage to or a defect in one of the four heart valves.
Symptoms of heart disease
Symptoms can vary based on the type of heart disease, but many are common across all types. These include:
Chest pain, chest tightness, chest pressure and chest discomfort
Racing or slow heartbeat
Shortness of breath
Pain, numbness or weakness in your extremities
Fluttering in your chest
Fainting or near fainting
Heart disease, like many other conditions, is easier to treat when detected early. Seek medical care if you experience one or more of these symptoms, especially if you have a family history of cardiovascular disease.
Risk factors for heart disease
Although anyone could be at risk for heart disease, there are some risk factors that may make you more likely to develop a heart condition. Risk factors that are out of your control include:
Age: The older you are, the higher the risk.
Gender: Men are at a greater risk than women. Women’s risk increases after menopause.
A family history of heart disease.
Other risk factors can be controlled by making healthy lifestyle choices. The following can increase your chances of developing heart disease:
High blood pressure
High blood cholesterol levels
Link between hearing and heart health
The link between heart disease and hearing loss has been well established for years. Simply put, it’s all about blood flow. The inner ears are extremely sensitive to blood flow. Heart problems can cause a buildup of plaque in the arteries and restrict blood flow, which also causes irreversible damage to the ear. Also, the delicate nerves in the cochlea play an important role in translating noise in your ears to electrical impulses to your brain. Poor circulation can reduce adequate oxygen, causing damage to these nerves.
David R. Friedland, M.D., Ph.D., Professor and Vice Chair of Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences at Medical College of Wisconsin, explains, “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 2010, researchers Raymond H. Hull and Stacy R. Kerschen published a review of more than 60 years of research, finding that impaired heart health has a negative impact, particularly in older adults. Similarly, improved heart health has a positive influence on hearing health.
Research from Miami University shows that an active lifestyle can play a big part in a healthy cardiovascular system, including regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy diet and keeping blood pressure in a good range. The higher the level of cardiovascular fitness, the better the hearing of the study’s older participants.
In summary, improving cardiovascular health has been shown to reduce your risk of hearing loss.