Hearing and Heart Health
For many people, hearing loss occurs with age. This is manifested in two ways: first, we begin to lose sensitivity to sound; second, our ability to clearly understand speech declines, even when the speech is loud enough to hear comfortably.
Statistically speaking, hearing loss is the third most prevalent chronic health condition, after arthritis and cardiovascular disease. It's even more prevalent that vision problems.
Most people know that hearing loss can occur due to noise exposure and aging. However, other factors, such as disease, medications, genetics, anoxia, and even cardiovascular disease can contribute to hearing loss, and a number of studies back this assertion.
The ear requires a rich blood supply in order to function well. When the blood supply is interrupted, as in chronic cardiovascular disease, for instance, or even in the course of some cardiovascular procedures, it causes changes to the structures of the ear including the stria vascularis, the Organ of Corti and the internal auditory artery. Subsequently, hearing is affected.
Studies have shown that adults 65-85, with a history of cardiovascular disease had significantly poorer hearing than people without cardiovascular disease. Interestingly, when studies look at myocardial infarctions, women seem to be affected more than men. Some clinicians have even suggested that hearing loss may be an early marker for cardiovascular disease because hearing loss seems to precede heart disease.
Other studies have evaluated subjects who did not have cardiovascular disease, and the results indicate that these heart-healthy individuals with excellent muscle tone have better hearing as well.
It has been suggested that good muscle strength and excellent cardiovascular health may, in fact stave off hearing loss and maintain good hearing sensitivity longer because of increased flow of oxygen, and increased glucose supply to all the organs and structures of the auditory system.
There is also evidence that regular exercise may play a role in hearing conservation through improvements in circulation.
Though a number of studies have investigated the interconnection between cardiovascular health and hearing sensitivity, there is no consensus on the topic. This evidence to date prompts us to examine more closely the relationship of cardiovascular fitness level and hearing. Hearing health notwithstanding, cardiovascular fitness has its own rewards through greater overall physical and mental health.