Did you know that heart health and hearing are connected?

Researchers now know a healthy heart is important for good hearing. We all accept the “knee bone’s connected to the hip bone,” but the “heart to the ear,” really? For those of you who like to understand the facts of the matter, consider the following research. 

The ear is an amazing and complex structure. It consists of three chambers, each a wonder of miniaturization, and to keep it fit and healthy requires a good blood supply, but on a tiny scale. Of course the smaller the blood vessels, the greater the risk of it becoming blocked or furred up if the patient has high cholesterol or arteriosclerosis.

Because the structures in the ear as so small, there is no room for a backup blood supply. If the primary blood vessels get blocked then the ear becomes starved of oxygen, which can result in permanent damage.

This is all well and fine in theory, but can researchers prove it? Yes, they can. Researchers have identified a typical pattern of hearing loss in audiograms that points towards damage done because of poor blood circulation to the ear. In much the same way the knee and hip bone are connected, this poor circulation is strongly linked to a certain type of heart disease.

This link is so strong that abnormal hearing tests could prove an early alert to heart disease in patients who otherwise have no clue they have a circulatory problem. This has led to the ear being proclaimed as a “window on the heart.” 

But looking at the facts from the other direction, researchers found that people with healthy hearts tended to have better hearing. It seems leading an active lifestyle, eating sensibly, and keeping fit all serve not just to keep you heart healthy but your hearing. Conversely, couch potatoes, people with a high BMI or those with a waist above 40 inches, are statistically at greater risk of both heart disease and hearing loss. That’s quite an incentive to stay fit and healthy.

In addition, important as hearing tests are for the sake of your hearing, it seems there is now an added incentive to see your audiologist at least once a year: because they can keep a check on your heart health.

During a hearing exam the audiologist generates a trace that reflects the pattern of the hearing loss. Those associated with heart disease show a drop off in low frequencies in a pattern called a “reverse slope”. If your audiologist spots this, not only will they advise you on the best hearing device to enable your hearing, but they’ll also suggest an appointment with a cardiologist should be your next stop.

So keep your heart healthy and get regular hearing checks, in order to protect your health and wellbeing.