More than 60 years of research has established a definitive link between hearing loss and heart health according to a 2010 study published in the American Journal of Audiology. The study authors concluded, “The negative influence of impaired cardiovascular health on both the peripheral and central auditory system and the potential positive influence of improved cardiovascular health on these same systems have been found through a sizable body of research that has been conducted over more than 6 decades.”
While heart health is a general category, many health care providers see high blood pressure as a pre-cursor to a host of heart issues and heart issues are one of the leading causes of death in the United States. There are currently 75 million Americans (1-in-3) diagnosed with high blood pressure.
Why are high blood pressure and hearing loss linked? We all feel like we’ve been fairly well educated on the importance of maintaining a healthy blood pressure. At least, we’ve heard the warnings from a doctor, seen the public service announcements, or know someone dealing with high blood pressure. We know the big picture, but what exactly is happening to our blood vessels when we are too far above the normal blood pressure range?
The American Heart Association defines high blood pressure as a consistently high state of force being exerted against the blood vessels. Our heartbeat represents oxygenated blood being pushed through the vast network of blood vessels in our bodies, beginning with the arteries. The rest of our organs need that blood to function optimally. The excessive force of high blood pressure causes damage to the arteries. Damage to the arteries affects the rest of the vascular system, which in turn affects the entire body.
It usually takes years of high blood pressure to cause damage to the delicate lining of the arteries – some of the largest vessels in the human body. Now imagine the toll of those same years of high-pressure wear and tear on the microscopic blood vessels of the inner ear. The inner ear houses fluid and the tiny hearing cells that are absolutely critical to the ability to hear. Those hair cells, once damaged, will never regenerate. A fragile, transparent membrane covers the entire inner ear and is supplied by some of the smallest blood vessels in the body. The membrane, the hair cells, the fluids, and the tiny, tiny vessels and bones all work together to support the process which allows us to turn sound vibration into electrical impulses to be sent to the brain for processing. The inner ear is an elaborate wonder that is shockingly delicate. Maintaining inner ear function is necessary to preserve our hearing health.
The great news in all of this is that we can mitigate some high blood pressure risks through simple dietary and lifestyle changes, protecting our overall all good health and our hearing health. Schedule an appointment with your primary care physician if you have concerns about high blood pressure or heart health. Schedule an appointment with us to discuss any hearing loss and potential risk factors.