By Kate Lemons, Graduate Intern at Family Hearing
As a graduate intern at Family Hearing, I have had the opportunity to witness how better hearing improves connections to the people that matter most in life. Whether it be reducing how often a spouse must repeat themselves or allowing a grandparent to hear the whisper of a grandchild, good hearing enables strong relationships. It’s no surprise that heart health and hearing health are also tied, which is what my graduate research investigates.
Emerging evidence suggests that health conditions like cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes are associated with hearing loss. However, it is difficult to ascertain whether this hearing loss is occurring due to cardiovascular disease risk factors or the aging process since cardiovascular problems tend to occur later in life when hearing loss also becomes more prevalent. A large-scale study from 2020 that analyzed the relationship between overall cardiovascular health and hearing found that worse heart health was associated with hearing loss. This is the first study of its kind that indicates that poor cardiovascular health increases the risk of developing hearing loss. Moreover, it found that a more severe cardiovascular risk profile escalates the likelihood of a more severe hearing loss. This underlines the idea that overall cardiovascular health (e.g., blood pressure, presence of diabetes, smoking, etc.) may all work in tandem to impact hearing health.
The reason for this relationship may be due to the impact cardiovascular issues have on the blood supply to the inner ear. Conditions like diabetes that increase blood glucose levels may lead to damage and a build-up of plaque in the blood vessels of the inner ear. This diminishes the function of the hearing system.
What can we do to stay ahead of hearing or heart challenges? We can think about overall cardiovascular health in terms of the American Heart Association’s “Life Simple 7.” Managing tobacco smoking, body mass index, physical activity, diet, total cholesterol, blood pressure, and fasting glucose levels helps us to have better overall heart health and, thus, better hearing health. You can learn more about how to manage each of these risk factors from the American Heart Association. Although hearing health’s relationship to total body health is often overlooked, during this Valentine’s Day season, let’s not forget that staying true to the heart has multiple benefits.
As Family Hearing’s Dr. Christopher Schweitzer has always said, “HEAR is 80% HEART!” Hearing well allows us to stay close to the people that matter most to us, and isn’t that what this month is all about?