Our bodies are a marvel of interconnected systems and organs that work in marvelous and mysterious ways. For example, did you know that high fever, high cholesterol and high blood pressure not only impact your heart but may impact your hearing as well? It’s true. The old adage of the “knee bone is connected to the thigh bone” is true and that is why paying attention to your overall health has wide ranging benefits – including your ability to hear clearly.
All of the body’s functions depend upon healthy living cells that need a proper supply of oxygen and nutrients in order to work correctly. Cells in the body receive oxygen and nutrients through the blood and that is where high blood pressure comes into play. Hair cells in the ears play an essential role in hearing and they are fed by tiny capillaries (miniscule blood vessels the diameter of a hair). Their ability to grow and work at an optimal level depends upon the amount of oxygen and nutrients they receive through the blood. When they work well, they act as tiny antennae that send messages to your brain to tell you what you are hearing. Proper blood flow helps them to vibrate and do their job. However, when high blood pressure, high cholesterol or even Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes restricts blood flow or the level of oxygen in the blood, the hair cells don’t work properly and they don’t grow.
There are other ways in which high blood pressure can adversely impact hearing. A study published by the National Institutes of Health said that high blood pressure may lead to three conditions that could trigger a progressive or sudden hearing loss:
- Inner ear hemorrhage
- Thickening of the blood (blood viscosity) which may reduce the flow of blood and oxygen to the hair cells
- Changes at the cellular level
The relationship between high cholesterol and Tinnitus
The hair cells that we mentioned above also play a role in Tinnitus. High cholesterol may worsen tinnitus as it thickens the blood and slows down its ability to transport nutrients to the hair cells.
A study reported in the International Tinnitus Journal reported that hearing loss is “more prominent in those with high levels of cholesterol, triglyceride, and low LDL and in patients with low HDL concentration.” It also said that lowering patients’ cholesterol levels can result in “significant improvement” in lowering the intensity of tinnitus. These are important findings that attest to the benefits of maintaining good overall health.
What can you do?
We know that tinnitus and hearing loss are most commonly caused by exposure to a sudden loud noise or prolonged exposure to occupational or recreational noise. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) says that approximately 15 percent of Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 – 26 million Americans – have hearing loss caused by exposure to noise at work or play. (NOTE: FRED: You can link some part of this paragraph to the blog dated 1.17.17 titled “Why 30 Million Americans Suffer from Completely Preventable Hearing Loss)
- Protecting your ears while using loud machinery, reducing the level of ear phones and avoiding prolonged exposure to loud noise will help to protect you from hearing loss.
- Reducing high blood pressure and high cholesterol generally require lifestyle changes. The general recommendations of the American Heart Association include eating a health diet, reducing salt, unhealthy fat and alcohol intake while beginning or maintaining an exercise regimen.
Now that we know that blood pressure and cholesterol levels can impact hearing, we have even more information to act on. We have one more important tool to use in the effort to maintain and protect healthy hearing.
- Effects of Hypertension on Hearing
- Low-Cholesterol Diet and Antilipid Therapy in Managing Tinnitus and Hearing Loss in Patients with Noise-Induced Hearing Loss and Hyperlipidemia
- Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
- How Can I Monitor My
Pressure and Weight?