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World Heart Day 2023 - Hearing Loss and Heart Health, can hearing loss cause heart problems?

Kimberley Bradshaw - Head of Marketing
Written By:
Kimberley Bradshaw

Head of Customer Content Experience

Paul Harrison Hearing Aid UK Founder & Audiologist
Medically Reviewed By:
Paul Harrison

Audiology Expert

Updated: 18th October 2023
World Heart Day 2023

World Heart Day 2023

Hearing Loss and Heart Health - Can heart problems cause hearing loss?

 

World Heart Day 2023, Friday 29th September 2023

#UseHeart

World Heart Day, observed annually on September 29th, is a global campaign aimed at raising awareness about cardiovascular health and promoting heart-healthy lifestyles. This important initiative seeks to highlight the importance of preventing heart disease and stroke by educating individuals about risk factors, early detection, and effective prevention strategies.

World Heart Day encourages individuals to take proactive steps towards improving their heart health through regular exercise, maintaining a balanced diet, avoiding tobacco use, and managing stress. By emphasising the significance of cardiovascular well-being, World Heart Day strives to inspire individuals and communities to prioritise heart health, leading to a world with reduced cardiovascular diseases and improved quality of life.

In this article, we discuss the links between heart health and hearing loss.

 

Hearing loss and heart problems

Heart disease and other heart-related problems are said to be one of the top causes of death for men and women.  It is also said that hearing loss and heart disease are linked, as a healthy cardiovascular system is also healthy for the auditory system.

Hearing loss and heart health may seem like two very different and separate health issues, but recent studies actually show a strong correlation between the two.  In this article, we take a look at these links and how you can take steps to protect both.

 

Is there a link between hearing loss and heart disease?

Is hearing loss linked to heart disease?  The connection between hearing loss and heart health lies in the blood vessels.  Let me explain - the inner ear contains tiny blood vessels that are responsible for delivering oxygen and nutrients to the hair cells that enable us to hear.

When these blood vessels become damaged or restricted, it can lead to hearing loss. Similarly, heart disease can damage the blood vessels throughout the body, including those in the inner ear, leading to hearing loss.

Research has shown that people with cardiovascular disease are more likely to experience hearing loss than those without. In fact. they were shown to be twice as likely to experience some form of hearing loss.  It has been said that individuals with low-frequency hearing loss were more likely to have hypertension or high blood pressure - a common risk factor for heart disease.

The exact mechanism behind the link between hearing loss and heart health is still being studied. However, researchers believe that the common denominator, as stated earlier, might be damage to the blood vessels caused by factors such as inflammation, oxidative stress, build-up of plaque in the arteries or atherosclerosis caused by high cholesterol.

Such conditions can restrict blood flow to the inner ear and therefore lead to hearing loss.

 

Hearing loss and heart failure - Is hearing loss a sign of a heart attack?  

These problems can cause spasms, ruptures or blockages of minor or major vessels.  This can result in chest pain, heart attack or stroke.  Disorders of the heart's valves, rhythm lead or muscles can also lead to heart disease - like heart failure.

 

 How can I stroke cause hearing loss?

Strokes happen when there is a blockage of the blood supply to the brain, which means your brain is starved of the oxygen it needs.  Strokes that occur in the places of the brain that are responsible for balance and hearing can lead to hearing loss, dizziness and other balance problems.

 

Tinnitus and heart disease

Vascular issues such as abnormal blood vessels can cause tinnitus.  This type of tinnitus is called pulsatile tinnitus and sounds like a heartbeat.  Experiencing tinnitus is something you should never ignore or learn to live with.  Speak to a healthcare professional as soon as you can, as it can be a sign of worsening heart disease.

If tinnitus persists after treating any heart problems identified by your GP, then you may be referred to an audiologist for tinnitus treatment, such as hearing aids.

 

Links to hearing loss and heart health

World Heart Day 2023

Heart Health and Hearing Loss

 

Hearing loss and health problems - Can hearing loss cause other health problems?

Hearing loss can be caused by a variety of factors, such as genetics, aging, exposure to loud noise, medications (ototoxicity) and other health problems.  However, the link between hearing loss and heart health highlights the importance of maintaining your cardiovascular health which can preserve your hearing and quality of life.

 

So, what can you do to protect your heart and your hearing? Here are some tips:

  • Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese can increase your risk of heart disease, which can also lead to hearing loss.
  • Exercise regularly: Exercise helps to maintain healthy blood vessels and improves circulation, which can benefit both your heart and your ears.
  • Eat a healthy diet: A diet that's rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats can help to lower your risk of heart disease and may also benefit your hearing.
  • Manage high blood pressure: High blood pressure can damage the blood vessels in the inner ear, leading to hearing loss. If you have high blood pressure, work with your doctor to manage it through lifestyle changes and medication.
  • Protect your ears: Exposure to loud noise can damage the hair cells in the inner ear, leading to hearing loss. Wear earplugs, earbuds or noise-cancelling headphones when you're in noisy environments and limit your exposure to loud sounds.
  • Get regular check-ups: Regular check-ups with your doctor can help to identify and manage any health issues that could impact your heart or your hearing.

 

Is hearing loss related to heart disease? In conclusion

Cardiovascular disease should be treated seriously not just because of the impacts it can have on hearing health but the problems it can create in all areas of life.  There is simply too much evidence that hearing loss and cardiovascular disease are related to ignore.  This is another reason why we try and bring awareness in any way we can in order for everyone to be educated on overall health and well-being.

By taking steps to maintain cardiovascular health you can protect your hearing.  If you're concerned about your hearing or your heart health, talk to your doctor who can help protect your heart.  They can help you identify any risk factors and, if needed, refer you to an audiologist who will develop a treatment plan (like hearing aids) and continue to support your hearing for years to come.

 

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World Heart Day 2023

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Read Next:

►Hearing loss and Ototoxicity 

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This article was written by Kimberley Bradshaw

Meet Kimberley Bradshaw , Head of Customer Content Experience

She has collaborated and written about hearing healthcare for several online publications.  By working closely with Hearing Aid UK audiologists, and experts, Kimberley develops the online content, so that the customer's experience is the best it can be. 

Kimberley's medical representation has allowed her to focus on the importance of hearing healthcare and explore the many ways in which hearing loss and its awareness can be improved.

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Common FAQs about hearing aids and hearing loss

Is this the best model for me?

If you are looking at this page then it is likely that an audiologist has suggested that you purchase this particular hearing aid, so is this the best model for you?

In general, any audiologist will always be recommending to you the model that best suits your needs. Here is a useful check list to make sure that is the case.

  • Audiologist level of knowledge. The audiologist you have seen will hopefully have a wide knowledge of all available hearing aids, however some will only be familiar with a small number of brands and therefore may not really be in a position to know which model is the best for you. It is OK to challenge their recommendation and ask them to justify why this particular brand is the one for you.
  • Do research. Read about the hearing aid that was recommended. Does it seem like it will suit your lifestyle? Does it have more or less features than you need? 
  • Be aware of sales targets. Many high street retailers have specific tie-ins to a particular manufacturer/brand. The hearing aid they have suggested may still be the correct one for you, but do your research so that you know why they might have recommended it.

If in doubt, feel free to give us a call. That's what we're here for.

Do I need one hearing aid or two?

If you have a significant hearing loss in both ears, you should be wearing two hearing aids. Here are the audiological reasons why:

Localisation. The brain decodes information from both ears and compares and contrasts them. By analysing the miniscule time delays as well as the difference in loudness of each sound reaching the ears, the person is able to accurately locate a sound source. Simply put, if you have better hearing on one side than the other, you can't accurately tell what direction sounds are coming from.

Less amplification required. A phenomena known as “binaural summation” means that the hearing aids can be set at a lower and more natural volume setting than than if you wore only one hearing aid.

Head shadow effect. High frequencies, the part of your hearing that gives clarity and meaning to speech sounds, cannot bend around your head. Only low frequencies can. Therefore if someone is talking on your unaided side you are likely to hear that they are speaking, but be unable to tell what they have said.

Noise reduction. The brain has it’s own built in noise reduction which is only really effective when it is receiving information from both ears. If only one ear is aided, even with the best hearing aid in the world, it will be difficult for you to hear in background noise as your brain is trying to retain all of the sounds (including background noise) rather than filtering it out.

Sound quality. We are designed to hear in stereo. Only hearing from one side sounds a lot less natural to us.

What are the benefits of rechargeable hearing aids?

For most people, the main benefit of a rechargeable hearing aid is simple convenience. We are used to plugging in our phones and other devices overnight for them to charge up. 

For anybody with poor dexterity or issues with their fingers, having a rechargeable aid makes a huge difference as normal hearing aid batteries are quite small and some people find them fiddly to change.

One downside is that if you forget to charge your hearing aid, then it is a problem that can't be instantly fixed. For most a 30 minute charge will get you at least two or three hours of hearing, but if you are the type of person who is likely to forget to plug them in regularly then you're probably better off with standard batteries.

Rechargeable aids are also a little bit bigger and are only available in behind the ear models.

Finally, just like with a mobile phone, the amount of charge you get on day one is not going to be the same as you get a few years down the line. Be sure to ask what the policy is with the manufacturer warranty when it comes to replacing the battery.

 

Are behind the ear aids better than in the ear aids?

For most people, the answer is yes. But it's never that simple.

The majority of hearing problems affect the high frequencies a lot more than the low ones. Therefore open fitting hearing aids sound a lot more natural and ones that block your ears up can make your own voice sound like you are talking with your head in a bucket. Therefore in-ear aids tend to be less natural.

However the true answer is we can't tell until we have had a look in your ears to assess the size of your ear canal, and until we have tested your hearing to see which frequencies are being affected.

People with wider ear canals tend to have more flexibility, also there are open fitting modular CIC hearing aids now that do not block your ears.

There is also the age old rule to consider, that a hearing aid will not help you if it's sat in the drawer gathering dust. If the only hearing aid you would be happy wearing is one that people can't see, then that's what you should get.

Most people can adapt to any type of hearing aid, as long as they know what to expect. Have an honest conversation with your audiologist as to what your needs are.

What are channels, and how many do I need?

Generally speaking, six or more. Unless it's none at all.

The number of channels a hearing aid has is often a simplistic way an audiologist will use to explain why one hearing aid is better than another, but channels are complex and it is really not that straightforward.

Hearing aids amplify sounds of different frequencies by different amounts. Most people have lost more high frequencies than low and therefore need more amplification in the high frequencies. The range of sounds you hear are split into frequency bands or channels and the hearing aids are set to provide the right amount of hearing at each frequency level.

Less than six channels and this cannot be done with much accuracy, so six is the magic number. However, a six channel aid is typically very basic with few other features and is suitable only for hearing a single speaker in a quiet room. The number of channels is not what you should be looking at, it's more the rest of the technology that comes with them.

As a final note, different manufacturers have different approaches. One method is not necessarily better than any other. For example some manufacturers have as many as 64 channels in their top aids. Most tend to have between 17 and 20. One manufacturer has no channels at all.

Where can I get the hearing aids covered?

Hearing aids are easily lost, misplaced or damaged and typically are one of the most expensive personal possessions an individual can own. We offer hearing aid warranty cover for £80 per year per aid.  Find out more here

How much does the hearing test cost?

All our audiologists use the very latest technology and provide the full range of tests to accurately measure your hearing for free.  Find out about what we offer all our customers here

Do home visits cost extra?

Hearing Aid UK offers all their customers free home visiting services and home visits for hearing aids - Including hearing tests, fittings, maintenance, check-ups and much more in the comfort of your own home and at your convenience.  Find out more information here

How come you're much cheaper than other places?

Here, at Hearing Aid UK, we are dedicated to offering low hearing aid prices. We achieve this by having no head office and low marketing costs.   Our hearing aid prices are amongst the lowest you will find anywhere in the world.

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