Cardiovascular Status and Audiometric Patterns

I hope that your overall concern for patients is leading you to asking them about their hearing or when they have had it checked. Now, research is indicating another reason for you to be concerned about your patient’s hearing health.

In fact, there appears to be a strong connection between heart and hearing.1 What accounts for the connection?

Poor cardiovascular health causes inadequate blood flow as well as blood vessel trauma to the inner ear. This inner ear is so sensitive to blood flow that disorders can occur. Thus, hearing loss, particularly at low frequencies, may be an early warning sign of cardiovascular disease.

Here’s the research evidence:

Since 1948, the Framingham Heart Study has embarked on ambitious health research goals. A recent two-part study of 1168 patients, found associations between audiogram patterns and cardiovascular variables. Results indicated a significant association between low-frequency hearing loss and cardiovascular disease risk factors.2

This led researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin to conclude: “Patients with low-frequency hearing loss should be regarded as at risk for cardiovascular events, and appropriate referrals should be considered.”3

Another recent study out of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and published online in the American Journal of Medicine, found that a higher level of physical activity is associated with lower risk for hearing loss for women. The study also found that a higher BMI and larger waist circumference are each associated with higher risk of hearing loss.4

Decades of research now make it clear: there is a negative influence of impaired cardiovascular health on both the peripheral and central auditory system AND a positive influence of improved cardiovascular health on these systems.

So, I encourage you to advise patients diagnosed with cardio or cerebrovascular disorder to have their hearing tested regularly. This will lead to earlier treatment that can help preserve hearing levels and their quality of life.

And, for your older patients who may be experiencing hearing loss, keep in mind that this could be an foreshadowing of an undiagnosed cardio or cerebrovascular disorder. On a brighter note, the most significant positive relationship between improved cardiovascular health and improvement in auditory systems also occurred in older adults.

1 Better Hearing Institute, Press Release, 2013, “Heart Disease and Hearing Loss Linked”
2 David R. Friedland, MD, PhD;
3 The Laryngoscope, Department of Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences, Medical College of Wisconsin, Audiometric pattern as a predictor of cardiovascular status, 2009
4 American Journal of Audiology, The Influence of Cardiovascular health on Peripheral and Central Auditory Functions in Adults: A research Review, 2010

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