You may have heard the phrase, “Nothing happens in a vacuum,” before. But have you heard the entire quote? In full, the quote from Khaled Hosseini says, “Nothing happens in a vacuum in life: every action has a series of consequences, and sometimes it takes a long time to fully understand the consequences of our actions.” This thought applies to just about every action and choice in life—where you decide to go to school, who you choose as your friends, who you choose as your partner, and what you do at work every day.
However, have you ever applied this idea to your health? It remains true even there. Every part of your body and its health affects the rest of your body and your overall health. For example, if you injure your knee, you might not be able to run or cycle for a period of time. Without regular cardio exercise, you might gain weight. If it goes on long enough, this may even cause a decline in your cardiovascular health. In addition, if you favor one leg due to the injury, the other may develop additional strength to compensate for the weakness. A knee injury affects much more than only your knee.
All of that seems pretty easy to understand. What about when the link seems a little more complicated? At first glance, that may be the case when you hear that heart health and hearing health are connected. How could your heart affect how well you hear?
According to the latest research, it may all come down to blood flow. If your arteries are stiffened or narrowed (a condition called arteriosclerosis) due to high cholesterol, your blood flow will be constricted. High blood pressure (hypertension) can also damage blood vessels. Your hearing health also depends on blood flow. The delicate hair cells in the cochlea play an essential role in translating the noises your ears collect into electrical impulses that your brain can interpret as recognizable sounds. These hair cells depend on good circulation. Poor circulation can deprive these hair cells of the necessary oxygen, which leads to damage or destruction. Since these hair cells do not regenerate, the hearing damage is permanent.
Studies have confirmed that cardiovascular health is connected to hearing health. A study published in 2010 followed participants for 60 years. The findings showed that impaired cardiovascular health negatively impacts both the central and peripheral auditory systems, especially in older adults. Another analysis, published in 2017, found that cardiovascular disease and its risk factors (like high blood pressure) are associated with an increased risk of hearing loss.
Fortunately, studies have found some good news, too. Although sensorineural hearing loss is permanent, you may be able to preserve your remaining hearing through exercise, which can improve your cardiovascular health. A 2009 study conducted at Miami University discovered that participants with higher cardiovascular fitness levels (assessed by riding a stationary bicycle) had better hearing, particularly among those 50 and older. In 2017, a larger study found that people who were more physically active showed lower triglyceride levels. Since high triglyceride levels are associated with hearing loss, this is good news for those participants’ hearing health.
So, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your hearing health is only affected by noise levels or other factors that may seem obvious. The truth is that your heart health impacts your hearing health, too. Adopting an exercise routine could improve both! To learn more about how you can protect your hearing health as well as your cardiovascular health, and for more information about how the two are connected, we invite you to contact our hearing practice today.