Obesity and hearing loss: What's the connection?
Any disorder that affects circulation can potentially affect your hearing—including health conditions associated with obesity.
Many Americans carry extra weight. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2015-2016, more than one-third of all adults in the US had obesity. Adults with a body mass index (BMI) between 25 and 29.9 are considered overweight; those with BMIs of more than 30 are considered obese.
Does obesity cause hearing loss?
No, but it does increase the risk of other health conditions that are linked to hearing loss, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
Our inner ears are a complex system of semi-circular tubes filled with fluid and nerve endings. One of the main components of the auditory system is hair cells, which are responsible for detecting sound, translating it into electrical signals and transmitting it to the brain for interpretation.
Studies indicate healthy blood flow and oxygen contribute to the health of these hair cells. Since obesity strains the walls of your capillaries, they struggle to transport oxygen to hair cells efficiently. Once these hair cells are damaged, they cannot be regenerated and hearing loss is permanent.
Because excess weight makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood throughout the body, obesity can lead to 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. High blood pressure also can cause tinnitus, or ringing in the ears.
Additionally, studies have shown people with diabetes are more than twice as likely to develop hearing loss as those who do not have the disease. Type two diabetes and obesity are strongly linked.
If you think you might be suffering from hearing loss, visit our online directory of hearing clinics to make an appointment with a hearing healthcare professional.