We often hear about common health issues and how each one relates to another (think heart disease, diabetes, obesity). What we don’t often hear is how these health problems relate to your hearing. Here are some little known facts about how your overall health and your hearing affect each other.
- Diet: Research out of the University of Florida has found that a diet high in fruits and vegetables, and low in fat and salt, can help prevent damage that leads to hearing loss. While a healthy diet can’t repair damage that has already occurred, it may help in protecting against some of the damaging effects of loud noise exposure.
- Heart Health: You might not guess that heart health can play a significant role in your hearing, but it does. When the blood flow to the sensory part of your ear (aka inner ear) is reduced, your risk of developing a permanent hearing loss is increased. There is also some evidence to suggest that high blood pressure can increase the rate of age-related hearing loss in older adults. Just one more reason to live a heart healthy lifestyle.
- Smoking: According to a study from the University of Manchester, people who smoke, or are exposed to smoke, are more likely to develop hearing loss. It is not clear whether toxins from cigarettes cause the hearing loss directly, or whether related vascular changes are the culprits.
- Diabetes: To add to the issue of blood flow, vascular complications from diabetes can affect your hearing by impairing circulation and potentially causing permanent damage to your inner ear.
- Obesity: There is research to show that carrying excess body weight can lead to hearing loss. While not everyone with a high body-mass-index will develop impaired hearing, researchers believe that, like diabetes and heart disease, the effects of increased weight could lead to reduced blood flow to your inner ear.
- Medications: Certain groups of medications have side effects that can cause ringing in your ears, or even hearing loss. Some antibiotics and cancer medications, for example, can lead to permanent hearing loss, while large doses of aspirin can cause your ears to ring. It is important for an audiologist to monitor your hearing if you are taking medications that significantly increase your risk of hearing loss.