February is National Heart Month. Most people don’t normally think about hearing health when they think about heart health; however reviews of decades of research have found that there is a correlation between cardiovascular health and hearing health.
Raymond Hull, PhD, a professor of communication sciences and disorders in audiology and neurosciences at Wichita State analyzed 84 years of scientific studies focusing on the connection between cardiovascular health and hearing and confirmed a direct link. Dr. Hull explains “Our entire auditory system, especially the blood vessels of the inner ear, needs an oxygen-rich nutrient supply. If it doesn’t get it due to cardiovascular health problems, then hearing can be affected.”
Ongoing research is currently focusing on hearing health as an indicator of cardiovascular disease. David Friedland, MD, PhD, Professor and Vice-Chair of Otolaryngology and Communications Sciences at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee and fellow researchers found in their 2009 study that hearing loss patterns have a strong correlation with cerebrovascular and peripheral artery disease. One of the conclusions of their study suggest that patients whose hearing loss showed low frequency loss should be considered at risk for cardiovascular events and should be referred for appropriate evaluation.
Several studies examined the link between lifestyle behaviors and hearing health. Three individual studies looked at modifiable behaviors that are commonly associated with heart health and found links also with hearing health. One study found that a higher level of physical activity is associated with a lower risk of hearing loss in women. A second study found that smokers are more likely to develop hearing loss. A third study found that a diet that includes routine consumption of fish and foods that are higher in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are associated with a lower risk of hearing loss in women. Researchers continue to look at these factors with the possible theory that it all comes back to adequate blood flow to the inner ear.
As we celebrate National Heart Month, don’t forget about you hearing. Include a hearing screening as part of your overall wellness program.
Revised from an article provided by The Better Hearing Institute www.betterhearing.org