By Frankie Huang
In honor of American Heart Month in February, Hearing Health Foundation wants to shine light on the link between heart disease and hearing loss. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 610,000 Americans die from heart disease each year, making it the leading cause of death for men and women in the U.S.
Heart disease is linked to or causes numerous health issues, including hearing loss. One study suggests that low-frequency hearing loss may be able to predict cardiovascular health. Using an audiogram, researchers were able to determine the probability of cardiovascular disease in men and women. The study found that there was a correlation of heart attacks in men, and a correlation of claudication (pain caused by too little blood flow) in women.
High blood pressure can also be a contributing factor to developing hearing loss, since the inner ear is sensitive to blood flow. High blood pressure damages blood vessels and increases the risk of plaque buildup in the arteries, making it harder for blood to flow throughout the body. In other words, inadequate blood flow and nerve damage in the inner ear may lead to irreversible hearing loss.
A common cause of heart disease and hearing loss is smoking. Smoking increases blood pressure and plaque buildup, and causes hardening of the arteries, all of which decreases blood flow to the organs and other parts of the body. The effects of smoking damages the cardiovascular system, boosting the risk of hearing loss. Additionally, cigarettes contains nicotine, disrupting the neurotransmitters in the auditory nerve (which tell the brain which sound you are hearing) and preventing the brain to accurately interpret sound. Cigarette smoke contains many harmful chemicals that are believed to be ototoxic (toxic to the ear) that may damage hair cells.
There are a variety of ways to prevent heart disease and cut your risk for hearing loss. Eating healthy and incorporating moderate exercise into your daily life can drastically improve your health. Include more fish in your diet: Salmon, mackerel, and herring are high in the omega-3 fatty acids that help reduce high blood pressure and prevent plaque buildup, so you can decrease your overall risk of hearing loss.