Hearing Loss and Heart Disease

Doctor holding a red heart at hospital office. Medical health care and doctor staff service concept.

As we age, two major health concerns are heart disease and hearing loss. Aside from COVID-19, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, while hearing loss is one of the most common health concerns older adults face, affecting about 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 who have disabling hearing loss. This rate increases to 8.5 percent for adults aged 55 to 64. Nearly 25 percent of those aged 65 to 74 and 50 percent of those who are 75 and older have disabling hearing loss, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Communication Disorders.

An analysis from researchers at Wichita State University which looked at 70 scientific studies found a direct link between the heart disease and hearing loss. The findings also suggested that hearing loss may be an early sign of heart disease.

Some research suggests when someone has heart disease, hearing can be affected because the inner ear depends on blood vessels to supply the oxygen-rich environment.  Other research suggests that hearing loss may be an early sign of heart disease in seemingly healthy middle-aged people.

There are researchers who have even concluded that patients with low-frequency hearing loss should be regarded as at risk for cardiovascular events, and appropriate referrals should be considered.

Why?  Because the inner ear is so sensitive to blood flow that it is possible that abnormalities in the cardiovascular system could be noted in the ear earlier than in other less sensitive parts of the body.

Other experts agree and encourage collaboration among hearing care providers, cardiologists, and other healthcare professionals.

5 things your heart and ears have in common

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. Obesity puts people at risk for heart disease—and it affects hearing function. A number of studies show 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.1

Don’t take chances with your hearing or your heart health. To stay on top of your hearing, see a doctoral-level audiologist. Audiologists specialize in a variety of areas, including prescribing, fitting, and adjusting hearing aids and other hearing assistive devices.

Audiologists can:

  • Test/evaluate hearing and balance
  • Recommend, fit/dispense, service, and adjust hearing aids
  • Recommend and provide assistive listening devices (products to enhance telephone conversations, television viewing, etc.)
  • Provide tinnitus assessment and management
  • Provide education regarding the effects of noise on hearing and  options for prevention of hearing loss
  • Deliver aural rehabilitation and counseling related to hearing loss/tinnitus rehabilitation (counseling, education, auditory training/exercises)
  • Assess balance, dizziness and vertigo with treatment for dizziness from Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)

You should understand and take control of all aspects of your health, not only for your heart health, but for good hearing. This may even be more critical if you have a history of heart disease.  Schedule an appointment with a doctoral-level audiologist in Independence, MO, Overland Park, or Kansas City for a comprehensive hearing evaluation.

  1. Adapted from information provided by the Better Hearing Institute, http://www.betterhearing.org/news/your-heart-and-ears-have-lot-common-love-them-both-during-american-heart-month.  Accessed 12/20/2020.