While your heart powers your whole body, of course, it might be surprising to learn that there are direct connections between your cardiovascular health and hearing. According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women, but the circulatory problems caused by heart disease can also impact your hearing.
Here are just some of the ways that our hearts and hearing are linked, and health conditions to keep an eye on:
The tiny hairs in your inner ear, or cochlea, translate sound impulses to your brain. Poor circulation caused by arteriosclerosis, hypertension and other circulatory problems deprive the hairs of the oxygen they require for good health. The hairs do not regenerate, so any damage or destruction can result in permanent hearing loss.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), 60% to 80% of stroke sufferers experience some degree of hearing loss. Others sustain difficulties with auditory processing. Moreover, having a stroke also puts you at increased risk of future hearing loss, although the causal link is not yet entirely clear.
Stroke occurs when blood supply is cut off to the brain, often as a result of a blood clot. The sooner treatment for stroke is received, the less the damage, so it is important to recognize the signs, which include a drooping face, slurred speech and weakness and numbness in the arms. Maintaining good cardiovascular health as you age—including with good diet, exercise, and abstinence from alcohol and smoking—goes a long way to prevent stroke and protect your hearing.
There are two kinds of tinnitus, objective and subjective, the first of which can be caused by cardiovascular problems and is often detectable by a physician. Frequently manifesting as a pulsing or whooshing that occurs in time with your heartbeat, objective tinnitus can indicate a heart or circulatory irregularity, and should be checked out right away.
Keeping in touch with both your physician and audiologist about any changes to your heart health and hearing will ensure that both keep strong. While some of the linkages between our sensory and cardiovascular systems are not yet entirely understood, it is clear that there are indeed links.