The Hearing Heart Health Link
Unlike most other serious health concerns, hearing loss often goes for years without being treated – the average delay before seeking treatment is seven to 10 years. There are many reasons for this, but here are a few:
- Noise-induced and age-related hearing loss often occur so gradually it can take a long time to notice significant differences in hearing ability.
- Those who recognize their hearing loss dismiss it with a range of excuses. They don’t want to ‘bother’ getting their ears checked, don’t consider it debilitating, or are uncomfortable with the likelihood of being told they need to wear a hearing aid.
Of course, hearing isn’t the only aspect of personal health people tend to neglect as they age. Many people put off getting their eyes checked, yearly screenings for cancer, and other preventative care. The difference between neglecting other ‘minor’ aspects and neglecting hearing health is that many studies provide proof that hearing loss affects many other systems of the body. Researchers have found links between hearing loss and emotional/psychological health, cognitive ability, and increased risk for diabetes and dementia. What may not be as commonly known is the link between hearing loss and risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD).
The Importance of Heart Health to Hearing
Heart health is a major concern as we age, increasing the importance of regular blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol tests. A healthy heart provides necessary blood and oxygen to every other system of the body, including the organs involved in hearing. Sufficient blood flow is extremely important to the blood vessels of the inner ear, supplying oxygen to the delicate hair cells involved in converting sound waves into signals the brain can interpret. When blood flow is impaired due to cardiovascular decline, the risk of damage to these important blood vessels and organs increases dramatically. As you can see, protecting the ability to hear is yet another important reason to maintain good cardiovascular health.
The Importance of Hearing to Heart Health
But that’s not all. Just as CVD can damage hearing organs, hearing loss can adversely affect heart health. The primary reason for this is that straining to hear causes stress, and stress, in turn, causes vasoconstriction – a fancy term for reduced blood flow and oxygen to important organs such as the heart. Stress also increases heart rate and blood pressure, which overworks the heart and damages blood vessels. Since hearing loss causes stress, and stress is a key risk factor for certain types of CVD, the link between hearing health and heart health becomes clear.
When you suspect personal hearing loss but postpone scheduling a hearing test, it doesn’t just affect your ability to hear– it risks other aspects of your health. Don’t wait seven to 10 years to visit a hearing health professional and find out if you need a hearing aid or other assistive devices – your heart might be depending on it.