A healthy heart is central to a healthy body and mind. The cardiovascular system includes the heart, blood, and blood vessels. The circulation of blood transports oxygen, nutrients, and other essentials for a nourished body. When the cardiovascular system is weak, there can be devastating consequences. The Centers for Disease Control in fact points to heart disease as the number one cause of death in the United States, and it kills nearly 610,000 men and women nationwide each year. Cardiovascular diseases include all manner of ailments to the structure of the heart and the heart’s major blood vessels and can affect blood flow as well as breathing. Some common types of heart disease include high blood pressure, cardiac arrest, congestive heart failure, stroke, and coronary artery disease.
Links Between Your Heart and Your Hearing
Studies have shown that an inadequate cardiovascular system can affect more than the heart and blood vessels, however. A healthy cardiovascular system is necessary to keep our auditory system healthy as well, and cardiovascular disease has been linked to hearing loss. Charles E. Bishop is an audiologist and Assistant Professor in the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s Department of Otolaryngology and Communicative Sciences. He stresses that we Americans have seriously consider the effects of cardiovascular disease on hearing. He says that, “Hearing health should not be assessed in a vacuum,” meaning that we cannot explain away hearing loss as isolated from other aspects of bodily health. Bishop continues by explaining that “There is simply too much evidence that hearing loss is related to cardiovascular disease and other health conditions. It’s time we maximized the information we have in order to benefit the individual’s overall well-being.”
Part of maximizing that information is simply understanding how the cardiovascular system supports the auditory system. The cardiovascular system is in charge of circulating blood and oxygen throughout our bodies, supplying all of our tissues with nutrients. The cochlea is the component of your inner ear helps to transfer the noises you hear to your brain where they are reinterpreted as identifiable sounds. Cardiovascular diseases can interrupt this process, because they make it difficult for tiny blood vessels to travel properly throughout the body, and to the cochlea, in particular. Without good blood circulation, the delicate hair cells of the cochlea can go without proper amounts of oxygen, which leads to damage. Unfortunately, the cochlea’s hair cells do not regenerate; when they are damaged, they result in permanent hearing loss.
Healthy Heart, Healthy Hearing
Combating cardiovascular disease and hearing loss are long-term affairs. It is important to remain vigilant about scheduling and attending doctor’s appointments and completing any and all treatment regimes. Early detection of hearing loss can have immense and positive effects on staving off hearing loss. David R. Friedland, MD, PhD, and Professor and Vice-Chair of Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee contributes insight into the relationships between the cardiovascular system and hearing loss. He explains that, “The inner ear is so sensitive to blood flow that it is possible that abnormalities in the cardiovascular system could be noted here earlier than in other less sensitive parts of the body.”
Friedland developed his insights based on his analysis of just over 1,000 patients, finding that people with low-frequency hearing loss were more likely to have heart disease. This despite the fact that these people did not exhibit any signs of heart disease and were for all intents and purposes healthy. Low-frequency hearing loss includes sounds that are below 2,000 hertz—which includes much of human speech (which generally falls between 300 and 3400 hertz. People with low-frequency hearing loss may find it relatively easy to hear a conversation when they are one-on-one, or in a small group but in a quiet space. It is much more difficult for them, however, to distinguish (or comprehend) multiple sounds at once, as happens in a crowded environment.
Visit Us at Fidelity Hearing Centers
This research should encourage you to make appointments for hearing tests with us at Fidelity Hearing Center, as well as with your general practitioner to begin the process of assessing your overall cardiovascular health. With proper assessments of where you currently stand as far as your hearing and your circulatory health, you will be able to chart a manageable path forward.