Your heart is the prime mover in your body. A healthy heart is the cornerstone of a healthy life. Many studies have tied the health of your ears to the health of your cardiovascular system. Your ears can be a window into the overall health of your heart.
The connections between heart and hearing health are significant, as cardiovascular disease can affect your ability to hear and understand speech. Diminished hearing can be caused by restricted blood flow to the inner ear. A restriction of blood supply to your ears can cause permanent damage: Depriving the hearing organs of oxygen can compound other damaging factors, including noise, smoking, and certain types of drugs.
The connection between heart and hearing
The association between heart health and hearing health is related to blood circulation in the body. Circulatory problems can affect any number of bodily processes, particularly in the most delicate areas of the body — like the cochlea, the delicate inner-ear organ responsible for sending sound signals to the brain. Conditions that restrict blood supply to the cochlea can starve the inner ear of necessary oxygen and permanently damage hearing.
Cardiovascular disease causes hardening of the arteries, which affects your circulation and, in turn, could damage your hearing. Research suggests a link between hearing loss and cardiovascular disease may be due to the inner ear’s sensitivity to circulation. The disease causes hardening of the arteries, which affects your circulation and, in turn, your hearing.
If you have a history of heart disease, it’s important to have a baseline hearing evaluation to monitor changes in your hearing throughout the course of the disease. Also, if you have diabetes — particularly Type 2 — you are at a greater risk of heart disease and stroke, making you vulnerable to hearing loss.
High blood pressure can lead to problems in the sensitive cochlea. Because of the cochlea’s tiny size, the veins and arteries carrying blood through the organ are among the tiniest in the body — and therefore important to protect in order to preserve healthy hearing.
David R. Friedland, M.D., Ph.D., professor and vice chair of Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, believes that “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.”
If you have diabetes, use tobacco, or have hypertension, Dr. Dena urges you to schedule a regular hearing checkup. Your health is our primary concern.