Xers and baby boomers experiencing a hearing loss should no longer
dismiss it as a casualty of the loud rock concerts of their youth.
There are very real signs that link hearing loss to cardiovascular
theory of Dr. David R. Friedland, professor and vicechair of
otolaryngology and communication sciences at the Medical College of
Wisconsin, who has studied a correlation between cardiovascular and
hearing loss for years. A healthy cardiovascular system ó a personís
heart, arteries and veins ó has a positive effect on hearing.
Conversely, inadequate blood flow and trauma to the blood vessels of
the inner ear can contribute to hearing loss.
ear is so sensitive to blood flow that it is possible for
cardiovascular problems to be detected here earlier than in other less
sensitive parts of the body," he says.
latest study, nearly 1,200 audiograms, or hearing tests, were studied
for a suspected link. Only a quarter of those tested had hearing
problems, but more than half of that number experienced coronary
artery disease or cerebral vascular disease. Friedland calls this a
So are patients
with low-frequency hearing loss definitely at risk for cardiovascular
Friedland says, there is not enough data to create a strict medical
policy linking the two. But enough data exists to suggest that
audiogram patterns correlate strongly with cerebrovascular and
peripheral arterial disease and may represent a screening test for
those at risk.
those experiencing a hearing loss should ask their doctor to be on the
lookout for cardiovascular disease. This is especially true if the
patient has a sedentary lifestyle, increased body mass index and a
large waist circumference. And conversely, Friedland says, a hearing
test should be part of any routine medical examination.
He is especially
excited about recent study results because he says medicine has not
been able to effectively predict cardiovascular disease in those
younger than 65. "Here is a cost-effective, easy way to
potentially ID people with cardiovascular disease, or developing (CVD),
to pick it up earlier," he says.
In the meantime,
an active lifestyle can improve cardiovascular health and increase
blood flow to the ear. According to the American Journal of Medicine,
increased physical activity can actually decrease the risk for hearing
loss. Maintaining a healthy diet and keeping blood pressure within a
healthy range are also recommended.
continuing his research and is waiting for funding to study a much
larger pool of patients in the southeast Wisconsin area. Until that
study can begin, heíll continue looking for what he calls small
associations and correlations to support the link between hearing loss
and cardiovascular diseases, including heart disease and stroke, which
cause 17.3 million deaths each year.