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There’s a connection between heart health and hearing health

Eden Prairie, Minn. >> Did you know that your heart health is linked to your hearing health? There’s an important connection between your ears and your heart, and neglecting your cardiovascular system could spell trouble for your hearing. Dr. Archelle Georgiou, chief health officer at Starkey Hearing Technologies, offers insights on this connection.

Question: How are heart health and hearing health related?

Answer: Normal blood flow is critical for good hearing health. Delicate hair cells in the inner ear (the coch­lea) turn sound into electrical impulses that travel to the brain so we can hear speech, music or noise. Those hair cells rely on good circulation to function properly. Heart disease or hypertension can decrease the blood flow to the inner ear. If those hair cells don’t get enough oxygen, this can permanently damage the hair cells and your hearing over time.

By taking care of your cardiovascular system, you’re also protecting your hearing. Consider these tidbits:

>> A new study from JAMA further confirms that smoking increases the risk of hearing loss.

>> Hearing loss is twice as common in people who have diabetes as it is in people of the same age who don’t. Even people with prediabetes have a 30% higher rate of hearing loss than people with normal blood sugar levels.

>> Obesity increases the risk of hearing loss.

Q.: Can hearing loss be an indicator of issues with cardiovascular health?

A.: It can. The inner ear is small and sensitive and susceptible to changes in blood flow. So, the ear can be one of the first parts of the body to be affected by cardiovascular disease.

Q.: What other health issues are associated with hearing loss?

A.: Hearing loss is strongly associated with dementia. Research from Johns Hopkins shows that mild hearing loss doubles the risk of dementia, while moderate hearing loss triples the risk. Hearing loss also increases the risk of falls and injuries because hearing is an important part of maintaining balance and equilibrium. Finally, people with hearing loss are at high risk for depression and loneliness, because hearing loss leads to being left out of conversations or withdrawing from group interactions altogether.


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