While many Australians put a great deal of importance on having a healthy heart, the same can’t be said for their hearing. But given that heart health and hearing are intrinsically linked, they both should be on top of your health checklist.
Simply put, good hearing relies on a strong blood flow that is rich in oxygen. If an individual is suffering from poor cardiovascular health and the heart isn’t pumping properly, then the oxygenated blood isn’t flowing to the ear and hearing may be affected.
According to Professor Raymond Hull#, who recently analysed 70 scientific studies that had taken place over the last 84 years, there is a direct link between cardiovascular disease and hearing loss. He notes that hearing loss can be attributed to many different causes; however, cardiovascular disease can intensify the impact and increase the degree of decline in hearing. The compounded effect can also reduce a person’s ability to accurately make sense of what they hear.
This, of course, raises the question of whether a diminished ability to hear could be an indication of cardiovascular disease. Research in this area is ongoing, with several studies pointing to the benefit that hearing checks may have on being able to monitor your cardiovascular health.
One such study by Professor David R Friedland##, published in The Laryngoscope in 2009, concluded that patients who were identified as having low-frequency hearing loss should be referred for additional tests to ascertain their risk of cardiovascular disease. “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,” he said.
A more recent study published in 2014 by researchers at the University of Wisconsin in Madison showed that risk of hearing loss is greater in people with hardening of the arteries than in those without abnormalities in their heart vessels.
Of course, if you are suffering from hearing loss, it’s important not to draw the conclusion that you also suffer from cardiovascular disease. The first step is to make an appointment to have your hearing assessed and discuss with your audiologist any reasons that your hearing may be below par. You can book a free* hearing health check up with HearingLife.
#Raymond Hull, PhD, professor of communication sciences and disorders in audiology and neurosciences at Wichita State University
##David R Friedland, MD, PhD, Professor and Vice-Chair of Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee