Cardiovascular disease is a very serious public health issue in America. In fact, it's the leading killer of American men and women as the cause of one out of every four deaths in the U.S. Each year, 715,000 Americans have a heart attack and 600,000 die from coronary heart disease, caused by the build up of plaque in the arteries.
That's why the CDC, the American Heart Association and others bring awareness to this epidemic each February for American Heart Month. Aside from being dangerous in and of itself, heart disease is also linked to or causes various other health issues that affect quality of life. One such issue is hearing loss.
Hearing and heart connection
Though researchers aren't exactly sure why, they've had evidence for several decades that hearing and heart health are linked, and the evidence grows stronger each year. For example, one 1994 study in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found established a link between cardiovascular fitness and hearing loss, though the mechanisms weren't understood.
Several studies confirm this link, as well as an elevated risk of hearing loss for those with kidney disease. Experts are beginning to posit that the damage of blood vessels caused by cardiovascular disease can decrease blood flow to the ears, which is vital in hearing. Additionally, researchers know that poor kidney function lets toxins accumulate in the body. They suspect that these toxins might damage the delicate nerves in the inner ear, causing hearing loss.
However, experts weren't always sure what came first: the hearing loss, which could indicate future onset of heart disease, or hearing loss brought about by cardiovascular disease. Today, many experts believe that low-frequency hearing loss might predict impending or underlying heart disease, before serious problems arise. This is a very important finding because it suggests that audiologists and other hearing health care professionals have a duty to encourage patients with hearing loss to see their general physician to have heart health checked.
Charles E. Bishop, AuD, Assistant Professor in the University of Mississippi Medical Center's Department of Otolaryngology and Communicative Sciences, encourages Americans to take cardiovascular disease seriously, both for it's life-threatening effects and impact on all areas of life, including hearing health:
"Hearing health should not be assessed in a vacuum," said Bishop. "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 wellbeing."