The body is a fascinating thing; a many-faceted system with deep interlocking connections from one part to the next. Most of the time this is a huge benefit, as one area is inextricably linked to another to ensure that the entire thing moves seamlessly. Think of the ballet dancers’ smooth movements, the footballers’ agility and the precision of the archer. Each part of the body, from the heart to the eye to the muscles in the arm, has to be in perfect harmony in order to achieve the desired results.
Unfortunately, there are occasions where these connections can cause negative effects if one component receives undue strain. One of many such instances is that of the auditory system’s link with heart function.
Hearing and the Heart
Here is what is known: The inner ear and its mechanisms, because of their small size, are particularly susceptible to any changes in blood flow. So while a healthy cardiovascular system benefits hearing by allowing adequate blood flow, an unhealthy cardiovascular system inhibits blood flow to the inner ear and causes changes that can be irreversible. Restrictions in the blood vessels leading to the inner ear cause the sensitive hair cells within the inner ear to die, and unfortunately, the hair cells don’t regenerate.
Several factors affect your cardiovascular system as well as your hearing system, meaning the risk of heart disease and hearing loss go hand-in-hand. The greatest risk factors that both conditions have in common include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
Smoking not only damages blood vessels but increases blood pressure and causes plaque buildup and hardening of the arteries, causing a rate of heart disease at two to four times that of non-smokers. And though the direct link between smoking and hearing loss is not known, what is known is that the effect on the cardiovascular system from smoking increases the risk of hearing loss. What is also undisputed is that smokers have a 15 per cent higher risk of hearing loss than non-smokers.
What can you do about hearing loss and heart health?
You may be thinking you have to completely change your lifestyle to protect your heart along with your hearing. But don’t worry: even making a few small changes here and there can make a difference. Here are some simple ways to protect your heart and your ears at the same time:
- Eat a healthy diet, including more fish: Tuna, herring and salmon contain omega-3 fatty acids which lower the risk of hearing loss and promote heart health by decreasing the chance of heart-related medical conditions and arterial plaque build-up.
- Exercise, exercise, exercise. It helps to reduce obesity, improves heart health, decreases blood pressure, lowers cholesterol levels and reduces stress.
- Stop smoking
- Cut back on alcohol consumption
- Get more sleep
- Take frequent breaks during work to reduce stress