The heart and hearing are connected in an interesting and for many, an unexpected way.
It all has to do with blood flow. Normal levels keep tiny hairs that are key to hearing healthy.
If something like heart disease is reducing blood flow, a lack of oxygen can permanently damage those hairs.
“So, when there's poor blood flow because of heart disease, those hair cells don't function properly and if that happens long-term, then it can really dramatically impact your hearing,” said Dr. Archelle Georgiou, Chief Health Officer at Starkey.
Georgiou is a nationally recognized physician and medical executive with nearly 25 years of experience. She says the inner ear is especially delicate and sensitive to even subtle changes in blood flow, so a change in hearing abilities could be a sign something is going on.
“Hearing abnormalities, hearing impairment could certainly be an early sign of cardiovascular disease and, you know in fact, one of the statistics that's really interesting is that 40% of people who have high blood pressure also have hearing impairment,” said Georgiou.
She agrees with the typical advice for maintaining heart health. Eat well, exercise and don't smoke. But she says for people with conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure, doing one extra thing could be key.
“It's not enough to just take medication, but talk to your doctor about whether you're taking the right medication and on enough medication to have it managed to as close to the normal range as possible,” said Georgiou.
For people who think they have hearing loss, the doctor says getting professional help fast is key, since hearing loss, while treatable, is permanent.
Hearing loss is also linked to increased risk of falls and dementia.