May is Better Hearing & Speech Month, but it’s also a great opportunity to talk about overall health because hearing loss has been associated with many other health conditions.
A growing body of research shows that a person’s hearing health and cardiovascular health are frequently connected. For instance a 2009 study by Dr. David Friedland and his colleagues in The Laryngoscope found that patients’ audiogram patterns were strongly correlated with certain heart diseases. Meanwhile, a 2010 study by researchers at Miami University found that study participants with higher cardiovascular fitness levels also had better hearing, particularly among participants who were age 50 and older.
How can the heart and ears be linked to one another? Well, the answer is all about blood flow. Just as healthy blood flow may keep the hearing system healthy, poor blood flow can damage the blood vessels in the inner ear and contribute to hearing loss. The delicate hair cells in the cochlea, the sensory organ of hearing, rely on good circulation. Without it, the hair cells do not receive enough oxygen and can suffer damage or destruction. Unfortunately, these hair cells do not regenerate, so this type of hearing loss, known as sensorineural hearing loss, cannot be reversed once it occurs.
The good news is that sensorineural hearing loss can be treated, typically through hearing aids. But if you’ve already tried hearing aids and have not been happy with the sound quality, new hearing technology can also help. For instance, the Earlens Contact Hearing Solution is a totally new way to treat hearing loss. Earlens transmits sound directly to the eardrum in order to provide a broader frequency range than any hearing aid on the market. A broader frequency range has been associated with more natural sound quality.* Not surprisingly, in a recent study, participants preferred Earlens 4:1 over their current premium acoustic hearing aids.**
Even though we don’t usually think of hearing loss and heart health together, the research suggests we should be paying attention to both of them. So, this Better Hearing & Speech Month, make sure you’re protecting your hearing, but don’t forget to protect your heart!
*Moore, B. C., & Tan, C. (2003). Perceived naturalness of spectrally distorted speech and music. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America J. Acoust. Soc. Am., 114(1), 408.
**Data on file at Earlens.
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