Heart disease is one of the most common killers in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease kills about 610,000 people in the U.S. every year – making it the cause of roughly one in four deaths. Over the years, you’ve probably heard some tips for maintaining and improving your heart health – things like regularly exercising, quitting smoking, and eating a healthy diet. However, there is one aspect of heart health that often goes unrecognized: the correlation between hearing loss and heart disease.
Understanding the Link Between Hearing Loss and Heart Disease
There is an increasingly strong case for a connection between your hearing and heart health. First, while the ear is an incredibly powerful organ, it’s also very sensitive. The inner ear is extremely small, which makes it particularly susceptible to changes in blood flow. An unhealthy cardiovascular system may inhibit blood flow to the inner ear, causing long-term hearing loss. A study conducted by Harvard University identified a significant correlation between heart disease and hearing loss, finding that hearing loss was 54 percent more common in people with heart disease. Additionally, several recent studies – like this one published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology – have found that excessive noise over a long period of time may increase stress, negatively affecting your heart and your hearing health.
It’s obvious that there is a connection between hearing loss and heart disease, which makes the shared risk factors all the more alarming.
Shared Risk Factors
A number of factors affect both your hearing health and your heart health. For example, one major cause of both heart disease and hearing loss is stress. High stress levels have been proven to reduce the flow of blood and oxygen to vital organs – including both the heart and the hearing system. Another shared risk factor is smoking. Of course, smoking is widely known as a dangerous habit, damaging blood vessels, increasing blood pressure, and causing plaque buildup. However, the damaging effects of smoking go beyond the cardiovascular system, actually increasing the risk of hearing loss by nearly 15 percent. There are several other shared risk factors for hearing loss and heart disease:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Poor diet
- Excessive alcohol use
Managing Hearing Loss and Heart Disease
When it comes to preventing both hearing loss and heart disease, a few small changes can go a long way. If you’re a smoker or heavy drinker, those are the first habits you should work to eliminate. A healthy diet is also a key component of long-term wellness. Try eating more fish like tuna and salmon, which can lower the risk of hearing loss and promote heart health by decreasing arterial plaque buildup. You should also do your best to reduce your stress levels by getting more sleep, taking breaks at work, and making time for physical activity.
Cutting out smoking, reducing alcohol consumption, and decreasing stress are all important parts of maintaining your hearing and heart health. And if you’re over 40, make sure to schedule annual hearing checks as another preventative measure. Hearing loss’s link to cardiovascular disease is yet another reason why maintaining your hearing health is so important.
If you would like to learn more about hearing loss and heart disease, or to schedule a free hearing evaluation, call Schmidt’s Optical and Hearing™ at 772-286-4327. We look forward to hearing from you!