You might think that hearing loss is only caused by exposure to loud noises, but it may be coming from a different source. Hypertension can also effect your hearing, according to some recent research. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, has long been associated with heart disease, strokes and diabetes, but now we are becoming aware of its consequences on hearing.
There are 100 million adults in the US with high blood pressure, which amounts to almost one in three of us, according to the latest figures released by the American Heart Association. One in three Americans also suffer from prehypertension, which is classed as higher than normal blood pressure. News of the link between hypertension and hearing loss is of interest to two-thirds of Americans.
Effects of hypertension on hearing
Aside from the well-publicized health concerns associated with hypertension, it can also have an effect on your hearing. A study published in 2013 in the Indian Journal of Otolaryngology looked at 274 patients aged 45 to 64 and found that those with hypertension were more likely to also suffer from hearing loss. The one encouraging finding in the study was that as soon as action was taken towards reducing a patient’s blood pressure, the temporary hearing loss was reversed.
Since blood pressure often leads to complications with our heart health, we should also look at studies examining this link. A study spanning 60 years has found a definite link between hearing loss and heart health. The study, published in the American Journal of Audiology found that “the negative influence of impaired cardiovascular health on both the peripheral and central auditory system and the potential positive influence of improved cardiovascular health on these same systems have been found through a sizable body of research that has been conducted over more than 6 decades.” As blood pressure is a common factor in the lead-up to heart disease, this study further supports the link between hypertension and hearing loss.
The blood pressure-hearing loss connection
What exactly happens to our blood vessels to trigger hearing loss? Blood pressure is defined as a consistently high force on the walls of our blood vessels. Our heart pumps blood through these vessels everywhere in our body. The blood is essential to our organs functioning properly, but high blood pressure damages our arteries, which affects the entire vascular system. It takes a while for high blood pressure to damage the lining of an artery, but the inner ear’s blood vessels are much smaller, some of the smallest in the body. The inner ear contains microscopic hearing cells that are essential to our hearing ability. Once these cells are damaged, we can’t make more of them, and the delicate makeup of the inner ear can be adversely affected if the lining of those tiny blood vessels is strained.
How to avoid blood pressure-related hearing loss
These recent findings may be worrisome, but the good news is that there are several short- and long-term courses of action you can implement that could help protect you from this type of hearing loss in the future.
The first thing to do is to get your blood pressure and hearing checked. You can do the former as part of an annual check with your doctor. The next step is scheduling an annual hearing test with a hearing healthcare professional, especially if you have a history of hypertension. This will ensure you keep a close eye on the development of your blood pressure and hearing ability, which will make it easier for future healthcare professionals to provide appropriate care. Knowing if your high blood pressure has already begun to affect your hearing ability will allow you to start treatment sooner rather than later.
In terms of lifestyle changes, it is important to stay healthy in the usual ways:
- Stay fit and active. Take a daily walk outside or engage in sport with cardiovascular benefits. It is recommended to engage in at least 30 minutes of exercise a day.
- Eat a balanced diet using the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, developed specifically for individuals to help lower their blood pressure. It is designed to reduce hypertension by reducing sodium and promoting foods that contain potassium, calcium and magnesium.
- Reduce stress in your life by finding ways to see friends and family. This produces oxytocin, which is the body’s natural defence against stress.
Visit Encore Hearing for all your hearing health needs
If you have any concerns about recent changes in your hearing, a comprehensive hearing exam is the best place to start. Our professional team will work with you to create an individualized treatment plan to boost your hearing health and help you start hearing better right away. Get in touch today!