Vail Daily column: The link between hearing loss and heart disease | VailDaily.com

Back to: Columns

Vail Daily column: The link between hearing loss and heart disease

Heart disease damages hearing. The World Health Organization has determined a connection between overall cardiovascular health and hearing health. Cardiovascular disease takes the life of one American every minute. Today is World Heart Day and is meant to recognize the importance of healthy heart decisions.

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the United States. While this risk is widely known and many people take appropriate steps to deal with this threat, there is very little awareness of the research that indicates an individual's hearing health and cardiovascular health correspond. Dealing fully with heart disease means a hearing check is also in order.

We know that the inner ear — one of the key areas responsible for hearing — is very sensitive to blood flow. Researchers at ENT Today suggest that when blood vessels are injured, they can reduce blood flow to the body (as is the case when cardiovascular disease is present). Those abnormalities can be detected in the inner ear before they may be seen in other areas of the body.

Researchers at Harvard believe the hearing nerves are so fragile that the ears are likely the first organs damaged by cardiovascular disease. According to a study in older adults by Dr. Raymond Hull in 2010, the incident of hearing loss is 54 percent greater among those who have a history of heart disease.

HEART DISEASE RISK FACTORS

There are various risk factors for the development of heart disease. Family history of early heart disease and age are two key risk factors. Controllable risk factors include smoking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, obesity and diabetes.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute states that the main warning signs for women and men are:

• Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes. It may feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain. The discomfort may be mild or severe, and it may come and go.

• Discomfort in other areas of the upper body, including one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.

• Shortness of breath. This may occur with or without chest discomfort.

• Other signs include nausea, light-headedness or breaking out in a cold sweat.

Living a lifestyle that reduces your risk of heart disease can also be beneficial to your hearing. According to the American Heart Institute some things you can do to reduce your risk include:

• Having your blood pressure checked on a regular basis.

• Decreasing salt intake, as it impairs circulation.

• Getting proper rest, exercise and avoiding fatigue and stress.

A healthy cardiovascular system has a positive effect on hearing. Eat right and exercise. One study by Dr. Charles Bishop in 2012 saw a 32 percent reduction in the risk for heart disease when you exercise once per week. Get regular hearing check-ups and use hearing aids when recommended. Those who use hearing aids report greater overall health, an energetic lifestyle and maintain an active social life.

Dr. Daria Stakiw is a board-certified doctor of audiology. She is also the owner and lead audiologist at Rocky Mountain Audiology clinics in Glenwood Springs and Edwards. She is also the newborn infant hearing screen coordinator for the Western Slope and the Audiology Regional Coordinator for the state of Colorado. She has lived in Colorado for 11 years with her husband and their five children. Please contact her at 970-945-7575 or at dr.daria@rockymountainaudiology.com.