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Obesity and Hearing Loss

If your favorite pair of jeans doesn’t fit the way they used to and you’re planning to buy a bigger size with one of your holiday gift cards, reconsider. Your hearing health may benefit if you lose the extra weight instead.

Of course, your hearing health is only one of a number of reasons to maintain a healthy weight. We all know that excessive body fat put a big strain on our hearts and is detrimental to our circulatory systems. But being overweight also puts us at risk for developing diabetes – most commonly, Type 2 Diabetes – which is one of the major causes of heart disease and stroke and the 7th leading cause of death in the United States.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2010-2011 more than one third of all adults in the United States were overweight. Adults with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of between 25 and 29.9 are considered overweight; those with BMIs of more than 30 are considered obese.

How does excessive weight contribute to hearing loss? It all has to do with blood flow and how that affects the health of your inner ear. Our inner ears are a complex system of semi-circular tubes filled with fluid and nerve endings. One of the main components to the system is auditory hair cells which are responsible for detecting sound before they are translated into electrical signals and transmitted to the brain for interpretation. Once these hair cells are damaged, they cannot be regenerated and hearing loss is permanent.

Studies indicate healthy blood flow and oxygen contribute to the health of these hair cells. Since obesity puts a huge strain on the walls of your capillaries, they struggle to transport oxygen to the cells efficiently.

Because excess weight makes it difficult for your heart to pump blood through out your body, obesity can also cause high blood pressure. Believe it or not, in addition to an increased risk of stroke, high blood pressure also increases your risk of developing hearing loss. At the very least, high blood pressure can cause tinnitus, or ringing in the ears. At its worst, high blood pressure causes sensitivity to noise, which elevates your chances for developing noise-induced hearing loss.

If you’ve recognized that you need to lose some weight this year, please consult your doctor before beginning any type of a weight-loss routine. She can help you measure your BMI, determine how much weight you need to lose and recommend the best way for you to reach a healthy weight. Not only will your heart thank you, the resulting health benefit will be music to your ears as well.

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