According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 20.1 million adults aged 20 and older have the most common form of heart disease, called coronary artery disease, or CAD. CAD happens when blood vessels narrow or become blocked by plaque. Though CAD is often years or even decades in the making, it can result in damage to the heart’s muscle, valves and/or rhythm mechanism, leading to stroke, heart attack, chest pain, and yes, even hearing loss.
How is that possible?
The ear is an intricate system supplied by several small arteries. Good blood flow is necessary to maintain proper function. Research has indicated that just as CAD reduces blood floor in the arteries to the heart, it can result in reduced blood flow to the ear, potentially resulting in hearing loss.
Heart Disease and Hearing Loss
The relationship between heart disease and hearing loss has been studied throughout the years. While there is not a direct causal link between heart disease and hearing loss, there is a large body of evidence suggesting a relationship between the two. Damage to the hearing system can result in sensorineural hearing loss, which is permanent and is often treated with hearing aids.
Researchers also have suggested hearing loss could be an early sign of heart disease, especially since the ear depends so much on good circulation to function properly. Some have even suggested that hearing loss should be considered a risk factor and possible early indicator for cardiovascular events and heart disease.
With that in mind, here are 5 things your heart and ears have in common:
- Someone with heart disease is at a higher risk of depression—and someone with unaddressed hearing loss is at a higher risk of depression. Better Hearing Institute research shows that people with hearing loss who use hearing aids are more likely to be optimistic and feel engaged in life.
- Exercise is good for your heart—and exercise is good for your ears. One study found that a higher level of physical activity is associated with a lower risk of hearing loss in women.
- Smoking hurts your heart—and it’s really bad for your ears too. Research shows that both smokers and passive smokers are more likely to suffer hearing loss.
- Your heart and ears love omega-3 fatty acids. Research has found that regular fish consumption and higher intake of long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are associated with a lower risk of hearing loss in women.
- Obesity puts people at risk for heart disease—and it affects hearing function. A number of studies have shown a link between obesity and hearing loss. One looked at women (18 to 40 years old) and found a link. Another uncovered a connection between higher BMI and a larger waist circumference, and hearing loss in women.
While researchers aren’t ready to say that hearing loss is a definitive indicator of heart disease, they have said that regular exercise, a healthy diet and not smoking are all important ways to reduce your risk for heart disease, and they can’t hurt your hearing either.
To see if you have a hearing loss, schedule an appointment with a doctoral-level audiologist for a diagnostic hearing evaluation. If you have been diagnosed with coronary artery disease, be sure to let your audiologist know at the time of your appointment.