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How to Advocate for Your Hearing Health

Happy October! October means many things—it’s finally starting to feel like autumn in many places, and Halloween is coming up. But did you know that October is also National Audiology Awareness Month? This is the perfect time to assess your own hearing health. Of course, you don’t need to evaluate your hearing health on your own. Seeing a hearing health specialist can be an important step in assessing your current hearing health and receiving any treatment you need.

Before we talk about seeing a hearing health professional, however, let’s talk a little bit about your regular annual check-ups with your general practitioner. Do you go to your annual visits? If you do, does your doctor ask questions about your hearing health? They should! However, a recent national poll revealed that 80 percent of older adults said their doctors didn’t ask about their hearing health.

Now, you might be thinking that a doctor neglecting to ask about hearing health isn’t really a big issue. If hearing loss were apparent, the patient would have brought it up, right? Well, not always. Doctors can often be in a rush due to packed schedules and limited time for appointments. In fact, I recall an annual appointment where my doctor cut me off from telling him about my health concerns and said he didn’t have time to listen to all of them! (Don’t worry—I found a new doctor after that experience.)

Because of the constant push to move on to the next appointment, some patients might not bring up their hearing health, even if they have concerns about it. The rush from appointment to appointment is also a likely reason that many doctors don’t inquire about hearing health on their own, without prodding from the patient.

Whatever the reason, it is concerning that such a large portion of older adults are not being asked about their hearing health at their annual check-ups. Approximately one in three adults between the ages of 65 and 74 has age-related hearing loss, and nearly half of adults over the age of 75 have difficulty hearing. This makes it likely that a good portion of older adults whose doctors do not ask about their hearing health do have hearing loss.

Untreated hearing loss can cause challenges in communication, which can lead to strained relationships with family and friends, difficulties at work, and a new aversion to social situations. In addition, untreated hearing loss is linked to several other health problems, including a greater risk for depression, anxiety, social isolation, cognitive decline and dementia, and falls.

So, what can you do to protect yourself from these health problems? Learn to advocate for yourself and your hearing health! When you go to annual check-ups, talk with your doctor about your hearing health. Take an online hearing assessment to see if you might have hearing loss. (Several free hearing tests are available, like this one, if you do a quick online search.) If you believe you might have hearing loss or if you simply want to get your hearing checked by a professional, contact a hearing specialist. They will be able to conduct a hearing test, evaluate your results, and recommend the treatment you need. If you have a hearing aid, wear it! Don’t be afraid to talk about hearing loss with others, whether it’s your doctor or your friends.

To learn more about how you can advocate for your hearing health (especially during Audiology Awareness Month!) or to set up an appointment with our hearing professional, we welcome you to contact us today. We look forward to assisting you.

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Do You Have Trouble Hearing Clearly—But Are Not Sure If You Have Hearing Loss?

Hearing loss may seem like a black and white issue—either you have hearing loss or you have normal hearing. You would think hearing loss would be fairly easy to self-diagnose, too, since you would notice when you cannot hear properly. However, there are some gray, in-between areas when it comes to hearing loss. You might feel that you do not have hearing loss because you can hear, yet you cannot hear clearly. That’s exactly what this article will discuss.

You Can Hear, But Not Clearly
So, what does it mean if you can hear, but not clearly? Another common way this is described is that you can hear a conversation, but you have difficulty understanding what is said. In many cases, this is a sign of high-frequency hearing loss. This means that you can hear and understand low-pitched sounds, but you have difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds.

High-frequency hearing loss can make it challenging to understand speech because consonant sounds (like Th, Sh, F, S, P, K, and V) are high-pitched. Since vowel sounds (A, E, I, O, and U) are low-pitched, you can probably hear the vowels but not the consonants. This combination means you will know that someone is speaking and you might be able to make out part of it, but because you cannot hear all of the consonant sounds, you may have difficulty understanding what is being said.

High-frequency hearing loss also makes it more difficult to hear high-pitched voices, especially those of women and children. In addition, excessive background noise can make it even more challenging to understand speech if you have high-frequency hearing loss. Here are a few more common signs of high-frequency hearing loss:

  • You struggle to follow conversations
  • You often feel like people are mumbling
  • You have difficulty understanding speech on television, even if you turn up the volume
  • You do not enjoy music because it sounds distorted, especially at higher volumes
  • You often mishear women’s and children’s voices
  • You struggle to understand speech on the phone
  • You find yourself giving inappropriate answers to questions or missing the punchline of jokes
  • Your family members and friends feel like you aren’t listening to them
  • Your spouse or family members accuse you of having “selective hearing”

If you recognize these symptoms, it’s time to have your hearing checked by a hearing professional. They will be able to diagnose any hearing loss, including high-frequency hearing loss, and provide you with the solutions you need.

You Pass a Hearing Test But Still Can’t Hear Properly
In most cases, a professional hearing test will help detect and diagnose any hearing loss. Believe it or not, however, there are times when you can pass a hearing test and be told that you have normal hearing, yet you still feel that you cannot hear properly. There are a few reasons this might happen:

  • Hidden Hearing Loss
    Hidden hearing loss is hearing loss that is not detectable with standard hearing tests. This is because standard hearing loss focuses on the ears, while hidden hearing loss is due to an issue in the brain.
  • Auditory Processing Disorders (APD)
    If you can hear sounds but have difficulty understanding, you may have an auditory processing disorder. This is caused by the nervous system struggling to interpret sound coming in from the ears.
  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
    Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD) can make it difficult to understand sound as well. This is because the brain struggles to keep up with all of the sensory input it experiences, especially noise. It is also possible to have both ADD or autism and an auditory processing disorder.

If you feel like you have difficulty hearing or understanding sounds, do not hesitate to contact your hearing care professional. We are here to assist you and provide the personalized care you need.

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Hearing Loss Can Change You, But Did You Know It Can Change Your Brain?

Hearing loss can bring a lot of change to your life. Of course, there’s the major change of not being able to hear all of the sounds that you once did. Untreated hearing loss can also alter your relationships with your spouse, family, friends, and coworkers, as you can no longer hear and understand conversations clearly. You may often ask people to repeat themselves or talk louder, which can lead to frustration on both sides. You might even find yourself avoiding social situations, especially in loud settings, to avoid problems with hearing and understanding conversation. You may not be able to enjoy sounds you once did, like music, TV, and nature sounds. If you decide to treat your hearing loss and wear hearing aids, that is a change too.

All of these changes are real and can create shifts in your life. However, did you know that hearing loss can also change your brain? Recent research, conducted over several years by Johns Hopkins University, The Ohio State University, and other institutions, has revealed that hearing loss causes changes to your brain that have been linked to cognitive decline and even dementia.

The greatest takeaway message from this research is that if you believe you may be experiencing hearing loss, treat your hearing loss! Getting a hearing test is painless and usually takes half an hour or less. From this hearing test, your hearing professional will be able to diagnose any hearing loss and present you with options to treat your hearing loss. Hearing aids are a common and effective way to treat hearing loss. In fact, studies have shown that treating hearing loss by wearing hearing aids reduces memory loss and is associated with a delayed diagnosis of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. It is not clear yet whether using hearing aids can completely prevent the brain changes that are linked to memory loss and cognitive decline, but it can slow this process.

Stanford University’s clinical instructor of otolaryngology, Yona Vaisbuch, MD, explained in the 2018 Stanford Medicine publication Listening that, “With time, those brain changes will not be reversible. That’s why we need to treat hearing loss as soon as possible.” Likewise, Dr. Frank Lin of Johns Hopkins recommends treating hearing loss “sooner rather than later…before these brain structural changes take place.” As noted by Dr. Vaisbuch, the brain changes that occur due to untreated hearing loss can become permanent. At that point, just beginning to wear hearing aids may be too little, too late when it comes to brain structure and cognitive decline.

Of course, simply having your hearing tested and getting hearing aids is not enough if you do not actually use your hearing aids! Wearing your hearing aids all day, every day is the best way to get used to them and enjoy their benefits. If you feel something is wrong with your hearing aids—for example, if they are uncomfortable or if the settings need to be adjusted—be sure to reach out to your hearing aid professional.

If you believe that you might have hearing loss, or if you want to learn more about how treating hearing loss can prevent changes to your brain, we invite you to contact our hearing practice today. We are eager to speak with you!

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Why Is It Important to Have a Professional Hearing Aid Fitting?

If you broke your arm, would you go to the store, buy some plaster, and put a cast on your broken arm yourself? Of course not! You would go to a doctor who would be sure to set the broken bone correctly and apply the cast in a way that will be of most benefit to your arm’s healing.

In the same way, you cannot expect your hearing aids to function optimally without the help of a professional. There are many different types of hearing aids available now—some better than others—and to ensure that you get the right type of hearing aids for you and that they fit correctly, you will need to attend a hearing aid fitting with a trained hearing professional. Here are 4 reasons why it is essential to have a professional hearing aid fitting:

  1. Not all hearing aids are created equal.
    Just as with all other products, hearing aids are available in a wide variety. Some are simple, while others are very technologically advanced. The type of hearing aid you will need depends on the type and severity of hearing loss you suffer from. Personal preferences can also help determine which hearing aid is right for you.
    Your hearing professional will take all of these factors into account when helping you find the hearing aid that is best for you. Cost also plays a role, so be sure to discuss your cost expectations with your hearing aid professional. (Just remember that you often get what you pay for, so it might not be worth it to choose the least expensive option.)
    Remember, there will be an adjustment period with your new hearing aids, even if you choose top-of-the-line devices and have them fitted by a professional. If your hearing aids are uncomfortable, however, or if you still experience trouble hearing, you may need an adjustment. Do not hesitate to contact your hearing aid professional for assistance.
  2. There are various types and degrees of hearing loss.
    As mentioned, the type of hearing loss you experience will play a part in determining which type of hearing aid you need and how your device is adjusted by your hearing professional. It is important that you are aware of the type and severity of hearing loss you experience so you can make an educated decision on what kind of hearing aids you will use. Your hearing aid professional will help you understand your hearing loss and will assist you in deciding on the type of hearing aid that is best for your specific needs.
  3. You will need to decide to wear your hearing aids.
    You could choose the best of the best when it comes to hearing aids, but they will do you no good if you do not wear them. It is a personal decision and commitment to wear hearing aids every day and enjoy the sounds you would miss without them. While it may seem strange at first to wear hearing aids every day, remember that untreated hearing loss can lead to a variety of other medical problems, including depression, anxiety, social isolation, falls, and cognitive decline.
    Again, if your hearing aids are uncomfortable or the settings seem off after your professional fitting, contact your hearing aid specialist. They can help you with adjustments.
  4. A trained professional is an irreplaceable resource.
    Your hearing aid fitting will be with a hearing professional. Be sure to take advantage of your time with them. Ask any questions that you have and listen to all of their instruction and advice. They will be able to help you make informed decisions about your hearing aids. They can also answer your questions and ease any concerns you might have. Remember that your hearing professional has your best interests at heart.

If you believe that you or a loved one is experiencing hearing loss, it may be time for hearing aids. To learn more about professional hearing aid fittings and to schedule your appointment, we invite you to contact our hearing professional today.

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4 Easy Tips for Getting Used to New Hearing Aids

Are you considering committing to new hearing aids soon? Perhaps you have recently realized that you are experiencing hearing loss and you are considering your first set of hearing aids. Maybe you have worn hearing aids for years now and are contemplating getting a new set (especially with all of the new hearing aids coming out recently). No matter what your situation is, it can be a big change to get used to wearing new hearing aids.

Here are some simple, effective tips for getting used to new hearing aids:

  1. Don’t hesitate to speak up.
    During your hearing aid fitting, don’t be afraid to speak up if you have any concerns or questions about your new hearing aids. Your hearing aid professional is there to answer all of your questions and make sure that your hearing aids are as effective as possible. If you are worried about the quality of sound or need any adjustments, be sure to speak up.
    Don’t forget that adjustments can be made later as well, so it isn’t a “one and done” situation. As you get used to your new hearing aids over the coming days and weeks, make note of any specific adjustments that need to be made or any questions you have. This will make it easy to give your hearing aid professional good feedback at your follow-up appointment.
  2. Wear your new hearing aids every day.
    If you never wear your new hearing aids, you’ll never get used to them! Wearing your hearing aids every day—from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed—is the best way to get used to them. In addition, wearing your hearing aids every day will help you notice any settings that need to be adjusted at your follow-up appointment with your hearing aid specialist.
  3. Have realistic expectations.
    Yes, hearing aids can indeed be life changing. They can enable you to hear sounds that you haven’t heard in some time. However, wearing hearing aids isn’t the same as having your hearing perfectly restored in an instant. You may still need to use strategies like seeking out visual cues and choosing preferred seating in noisy environments to ensure the best understanding of speech in different environments.
  4. Be patient.
    As noted above, wearing new hearing aids isn’t a “one and done” situation. It may take a few adjustments and appointments with your hearing aid specialist before you get all of the settings just right. The adjustment for you may take some time as well. You may not be used to wearing something on or in your ears every day, and your brain will have to get used to hearing more sounds again, too.

Your hearing loss probably happened gradually, and it will also be a gradual process to get used to your new hearing aids. With a little time, however, you will wonder how you ever lived without your new hearing aids! To learn more about how you can get used to new hearing aids or to schedule an appointment with our hearing aid professional, we welcome you to contact our office today.

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New Hearing Aid Manufacturers Offer Devices Online—Here’s What You Need to Know

If you had been diagnosed with hearing loss 20 years ago, you would have had only one choice: purchase hearing aids through your audiologist or hearing aid professional. That has simply been the way things are done for many, many years—but change is on the horizon. In fact, in many ways, change is already here when it comes to purchasing hearing aids and other hearing devices.

Beginning this year, several companies are now offering hearing aids available for online purchase. These include Bose, who created their own self-fitted hearing aid, and Walgreens, who partnered with hearing aid maker Lexie Hearing. In addition, highly recognizable companies like Apple, Samsung, and Panasonic will soon join them in becoming hearing aid manufacturers. According to online rumors, even Google has considered getting in the hearing aid game!

So, what does this mean for you as a consumer? Here are a few things to keep in mind as you consider this news:

  • You have options for purchasing hearing aids.
    As mentioned above, options for getting hearing aids in the past were pretty limited. Now, you have the choice to purchase a hearing aid through your audiology professional, purchase your devices online, or (in the near future) purchase your hearing aids over-the-counter (OTC).

    This variety of purchasing options also brings more variety in pricing. Top-of-the-line, custom hearing aids fitted by your audiology professional can cost thousands of dollars. (It should be kept in mind that hearing aid professionals offer lower-cost options as well.) The current online offerings from Bose and Walgreens fall in the $800-850 range. Over-the-counter hearing aids are likely to bring additional lower-cost devices. This allows you to find the hearing aid that is right for your budget as well as your hearing needs.

  • Not all hearing devices are hearing aids.
    When you think of managing hearing loss, hearing aids are probably the first solution to come to mind. However, several types of devices are now available, with more coming thanks to continuing audiology research and technological innovation.

    For example, there are now headphones and earbuds that correct audio for hearing loss, soundbars that do the same, apps that help you hear better in noise, apps that allow you to personalize your sound experience, and much more. If you have mild hearing loss, these types of devices and apps may be able to help you hear better without the need for hearing aids.

  • Audiological research is advancing quickly.
    From the advancements in hearing aids and other hearing devices in the last few years, it is apparent that audiological research is moving forward quickly now—and it’s being taken seriously. Companies that never previously ventured into the audiological field are now doing so confidently. In addition, developing technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence are poised to further advance audiology in the coming years.
  • Your hearing professional can still guide you through the process.
    Whether you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by all of the new choices or simply want to make sure you get the option that’s best for you and your needs, an audiology professional is there to guide you through. Your audiology professional will test your hearing and explain the various options you have, as well as the pros and cons of each. This can help make it easier to see which option is the best fit for you.

To learn more about new hearing aid availability and other hearing devices, we invite you to contact our hearing professional today. We are eager to assist you.

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Here’s Why You Need an In-Person Hearing Test (Even Though You May Be Able to Buy Hearing Aids Online)

Odds are good that you’re familiar with online shopping. Nowadays, even hearing aids are available for purchase online! That’s right—companies like Bose and Walgreens began offering online purchase for hearing aids (in certain states) this year. So, if you can purchase your hearing aids online, then you no longer need to go to your hearing professional’s office for an in-person hearing test, right? Wrong!

The truth is that even with advancing technology and increased online offerings, there is nothing that can compare to an in-person hearing test. In-person hearing tests are essential for getting an accurate assessment of your hearing ability and evaluating whether you would benefit from treatment like hearing aids.

If you aren’t convinced, here are just a few reasons why it’s important to have a formal, in-personal hearing evaluation:

  1. There are different types of hearing loss. The online hearing tests used to purchase and fit hearing aids online may not be able to detect all types of hearing loss and may not accurately fit your devices based on the specific type of hearing loss.
  2. There are varying degrees of hearing loss—and hearing loss can vary between your ears. Again, online hearing tests may not be able to detect all degrees of hearing loss. If you have mild hearing loss, it may not be apparent in an online test, yet it would be noticed by an audiology professional in a formal hearing evaluation. Furthermore, sometimes your ears have different degrees of hearing loss. This is important to take into account when fitting hearing aids.
  3. You should establish a baseline for your hearing. The Mayo Clinic recommends regular hearing evaluations for adults to establish a baseline. This will make it easier in the future to determine whether you are experiencing hearing loss and whether it’s time for hearing aids.
  4. Hearing loss can signal other health problems. In some cases, hearing loss is an early warning sign of a serious health condition, such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes. An online hearing test will not consider your overall health.
  5. Untreated hearing loss can lead to additional health problems. If your hearing loss goes untreated, you are at higher risk for depression, anxiety, loneliness and social isolation, falls, cognitive decline, and dementia. By having regular hearing evaluations and treating any diagnosed hearing loss, you can avoid these serious consequences.
  6. Hearing evaluations are painless. “No pain, no gain,” doesn’t apply to hearing tests. An in-personal hearing test simply checks your hearing ability. You will wear headphones and listen for tones to evaluate how well you hear sound volume and sound pitch. Your hearing professional may also conduct a painless physical examination of your ears to check for ear wax impaction or infection. Hearing tests usually take less than an hour, and they might be free, too (depending on your insurance).

And maybe the best reason of all? If your hearing test shows that you do not have hearing loss, you can say, “I told you so!” to anyone who told you that you might not be hearing very well. Joking aside, regular in-person hearing evaluations are essential to ensuring that any hearing loss is treated in a timely manner and in a way that best fits your specific needs.

To learn more about the importance of in-person hearing evaluations and to schedule your next hearing test, we invite you to contact our hearing professional today. We are eager to hear from you!

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Do You Have a Stubborn Loved One? Here’s How to Help Them Wear Hearing Aids.

It probably is not news to you that some people can be very stubborn and set in their ways. This can be especially true of older people who do not want to wear hearing aids—and may not even want to acknowledge that they are experiencing hearing loss. If you have a loved one who needs hearing aids and is reluctant to do so, you are not alone.
Here are some simple tips you can use to help your loved one be more willing to wear their hearing aids:

  • Highlight the positives.

It can be easy to talk about the negative effects of hearing loss, like social isolation, loneliness, depression, anxiety, and more. But put yourself in your loved one’s shoes—would you like it if someone only discussed negative effects with you? This approach can seem very heavy-handed and can put your loved one on the defensive.
It can be much more persuasive to focus on the positive effects that hearing aids could bring to their life. Talk with your loved one about how they will be better able to enjoy music, hear the sounds of nature, communicate more easily with friends and family, and more.

  • Focus on the facts.

Instead of focusing on how hearing loss negatively impacts your loved one’s life (and your own), which can result in a very emotionally charged discussion, talk about the facts of hearing aids. Highlight features like Bluetooth connectivity, the ability to reduce background noise, and other impressive high-tech aspects of modern hearing aids.

  • Be gentle.

Take a soft approach to help your loved one wear hearing aids. Do not try to pressure them or guilt them into scheduling an appointment with an audiologist or hearing aid professional. Hearing loss can be a sensitive subject, so approach it with care. Try to understand your loved one’s feelings and work with them.

  • Address the cost.

One common concern among people who need hearing aids is the cost. Even if a person understands how hearing aids could positively affect their life, they may feel reluctant if they do not know how much they will be spending to get their hearing aids. Explain that hearing aids can range in price depending on the type and how high-tech they are. Your hearing aid professional can work with you and your loved one to find a solution that fits both their hearing needs and their budget.

  • Go with them.

Some people do not like to go to the doctor on their own. They might feel uncertain about going places alone with hearing loss because they might not hear a question from the staff, or they may feel nervous about discussing their health history. Offer to attend their appointment with them to assist them and offer emotional support.

  • Ask them why.

Your loved one might be feeling stubborn about wearing hearing aids for a reason that is completely different from what you assume! The best way to find out why they are being stubborn is to ask them. Be sure to make clear that you will not be judgmental or dismissive of their concerns. Listen attentively and respond with care to address their worries.
If you would like more ideas on how you can help your loved one wear hearing aids, or if you need to schedule an appointment, please contact our hearing professional today. We are eager to care for you.

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How Does Hearing Loss Affect Men and Women Differently?

Hearing loss doesn’t discriminate—it can affect anyone of any age or any race. But does hearing loss affect men and women equally? According to the latest research and surveys, yes. This data shows that more men than women are affected by hearing loss—with rates of hearing loss being nearly twice as high in men than in women.
Although no one knows all of the reasons why men experience hearing loss more frequently than women, audiologists have hypothesized a few explanations for this difference. Here are some reasons men may experience hearing loss more than women:

  • Workplace noise

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is a common type of hearing loss. One study found that men may experience NIHL at nearly three times the rate of women. Experts suggest this difference may be tied to workplace noise.
While careers and industries of all types are open to both men and women, some careers are male-dominated. These include several types of jobs that may have high levels of noise, such as military careers, construction sites, factory or manufacturing work, farming, flight crew, or emergency workers and first responders like policemen, firemen, and ambulance drivers.

  • Medication use

Certain medications, known as ototoxic medications, are known to cause hearing loss. It is believed that men use ototoxic medications at a higher rate than women, which exposes them to a higher risk of hearing loss. Ototoxic medications include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen, certain antibiotics, certain cancer drugs, and more.

  • Seeking help

Although men appear to experience hearing loss at a greater rate than women, both genders suffer from hearing loss. Another difference exists, however, in how men and women handle hearing loss. Women are more likely than men to seek professional care for their hearing loss.
In addition, women are often more willing to admit to their friends and family that they suffer from hearing loss. This can lead to better hearing solutions for living with hearing loss day-to-day, such as choosing restaurants with lower noise levels, friends and family speaking more clearly, and other accommodations for the person with hearing loss. Because women are more likely to seek treatment and ask for help, they typically experience fewer negative social effects and have a higher quality of life.

  • Differences in hearing loss

Another difference between men and women who experience hearing loss is how the hearing loss manifests itself. Men are more likely to lose the ability to hear higher frequencies first, while women are more likely to have difficulty hearing lower frequencies. While both of these issues can cause long-term problems, men may experience more negative social effects because they can hear fewer high-frequency sounds, including higher-pitched voices.
So, what does this mean for you? If you work in a noisy environment, be sure to use appropriate ear protection to avoid hearing loss. If you use ototoxic medications, speak to your doctor about whether another medication option is available that will not endanger your hearing. Men can also learn to better recognize the symptoms of hearing loss and seek professional treatment when necessary.
To learn more about how men and women experience hearing loss differently, we invite you to contact our hearing professional today.

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Is There A Connection Between Hearing Health And Heart Health? Yes!

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.