February is National Heart Month! It is not a month just about chocolate hearts and flowers but to raise awareness about heart health, which is related to hearing health. Why is your heart relevant to your hearing you might be asking? It has been said that the ears are a window to the heart. More and more research is finding that low-frequency hearing loss is a predictor to cardiovascular disease. Hearing loss can result when there is decreased oxygen and blood flow throuhgout the inner ear. Also, prolonged exposure to excessive noise in the work place is strongly associated with coronary heart disease, the most common type of heart disease.

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There are various factors that affect both your cardiovascular system as well as your auditory system. These include high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking. Smoking damages blood vessels, increases blood pressure, causes plaque build-up and hardening of the arteries which in turn causes heart disease. The rate of heart disease and hearing loss in smokers is 15% higher than non-smokers.

Other risk factors to look out for that can increase your risk of heart disease and hearing loss are diabetes, obesity, poor diet, inactivity, excessive alcohol consumption and stress. Stress causes vasoconstriction which reduces oxygen and blood flow to vital organs, increases heart rate, damages blood vessels and raises blood pressure.

You do not have to change your entire lifestyle to protect you heart and hearing. Making a few small changes like the ones listed below can make a difference!

          Practice a healthy diet. Eating more fish such as tuna and salmon increases your intake of omega-3 fatty acids which lower the risk of hearing loss and heart conditions such as plaque build-up.

          Exercise. Exercising reduces obesity, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and stress. This increases heart health and reduces the risk of hearing loss.

          Quit smoking & reduce alcohol consumption.

          Get more sleep.

          Take breaks to reduce stress levels.

Charles A. Bishop, Au.D., Assistant Professor in the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s department of Otolaryngology and Communicative Sciences stated, “There is simply too much evidence that hearing loss is related to cardiovascular disease and other health conditions. It’s time we maximized the information we have in order to benefit the individual’s overall well-being.”

Everyone should begin asking to have their hearing checked as part of a routine physical examination. Anyone over the age of 55 is welcome to come into any of our ten locations to have their hearing screened as part of our Hearing Wellness Program!