The link between heart disease and hearing health has been confirmed by numerous scientific studies in recent years. The connection seems to come from the small but required amount of oxygen-rich blood circulating through the inner ear. When cardiovascular health problems cause even minute changes in the heart’s efficiency, it can be reflected in a person’s hearing health as well. As such, a loss of hearing sensitivity can be one of the earliest symptoms of heart disease.
In addition—and this is a fact many people aren't aware of—you can experience hearing loss after a heart attack.
By reading audiogram results and observing patterns of decreased blood flow within the ear, researchers are now able to treat the ears as a “window to the heart” and potentially predict signs of heart-related issues. Therefore, an annual hearing check to monitor your hearing health can be considered a smart early detection system for potential heart health problems down the road.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America, and February has been designated as American Heart Month in order to help increase public awareness of heart-healthy lifestyle choices. As a result of the compelling body of evidence linking the heart and the ears, there has become an increased collaboration among cardiologists, hearing care providers, and other healthcare professionals to find solutions.
Five Main Warning Signs
There are five main warning signs of an impending cardiovascular event. Their continued presence oftentimes means that a physician should be consulted and that a person may be in danger. The warning signs are:
- Chest pain
- Lightheadedness, dizziness, and other pain
- Changes to your ability to exercise
- Heavy or labored breathing; shortness of breath
- Feeling unwell or fatigued
Since you may already in trouble by the time one or more of the above warning signs manifests itself, wouldn’t it be nice if there was something that alerted you to a heart problem much earlier? After all, the earlier a heart problem is detected the more likely it becomes that you can take steps to avoid suffering a heart attack.
Researchers such as David R. Friedland, MD, Ph.D., Professor and Vice-Chair of Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee have concluded that the onset of hearing loss for people even as young as their forties can be just such an early warning. This means that if you notice sounds becoming a little less clear, or that the TV needs to be turned up a little louder, getting your hearing checked may be a lifesaver.
Everyone trusts their hearing to warn them of someone or something unseen approaching, and now we know that includes approaching heart attacks.
Here are 4 other things facts about the relationship between your heart and your ears:
- Both heart disease and untreated hearing loss are linked to increased risks of depression. However, among those with hearing loss that use hearing aids – there is likely to be a more optimistic and positive outlook on life as they become more reengaged in their lives.
- Increased levels of exercise is beneficial for both your heart and your ears. By keeping your body active through walking, doing yoga or anything that increases your physical activity you are also helping to keep blood pumping strong through your heart as well as improving oxygen-rich blood circulation to your ears.
- Smoking and its known links to numerous cardiovascular problems also play a role in increased hearing loss risks as well. It is unclear whether or not the toxins in tobacco smoke affect hearing directly, however, the damaging effects they have on respiratory and heart health are clear and this, in turn, has a negative effect on the ears.
- Healthy eating habits keep both your heart and hearing in better shape. Diets rich in the proper nutrients, vitamins and minerals can help our bodies and heart in countless ways, especially when combined with an exercise regimen. For example, diets containing increased amounts of antioxidants (vegetables) and omega 3 fatty acids (fish) can help protect skin, tissues and organs as well as strengthen blood vessels.
When it comes to keeping your heart healthy, a little proactivity can go a long way. With knowledge of the risk factors for heart problems, you can develop good habits, like maintaining a well-balanced diet, increasing your exercise, and not smoking to help protect your heart.
In much the same way, remembering to schedule an annual hearing screening along with your annual physical, dental checkup and eye exam, you can help protect your hearing health. The results of a hearing test can be beneficial for your overall wellbeing and ensure your happiness for years to come.
If you have any questions about hearing loss and hearing aids, please don't hesitate to call our hearing professionals at 1 (800) 804-0434.