Can Improved Cardiovascular Health Enhance Auditory Function?

Hull, Raymond H. PhD; Kerschen, Stacey R. AuD

The Hearing Journal: February 2018 – Volume 71 – Issue 2 – p 22,23
doi: 10.1097/01.HJ.0000530647.09559.0e
Hearing and Cardiovascular Health

The cardiovascular system has been found to directly influence the viability of the cochlea and the central auditory system, and if the blood supply is restricted, can frequently compound other damaging influences including noise, injury, and disease. The relationship between cardiovascular health, the resulting reduction of blood and nutrient supply to the cochlea and the health of that system has been confirmed by a great deal of research dating back over the past 80 years. Among those who conducted that research are Bunch and Raiford (Arch Otolaryngol. 1931;13[3]:423, and Crowe, Guild, and Polvogt (Bull. Johns Hopkins Hosp. 1934;54:315). Other notable research on the topic includes work by Jorgensen (Arch Otolaryngol. 1961;74[2]:164; Proctor (Arch Otolaryngol. 1961;73:444); Kirikae, et al. (Laryngoscope. 1964;74:205; Schuknecht (Arch Otolaryngol. 1964;80[4]:369; Johnsson and Hawkins (Ann Oto. 1972;81[2]:179; Makishima (Otolaryngology. 1978;86[2]:ORL322; Susmono and Rosenbush (Am J Otol. 1988;9[5]:403; Gates, et al. (Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1993;119[2]:156; Schuknecht and Gacek (Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol. 1993;102[1 Pt 2]:1; Cocchiarella, et al. (Occup Med (Lond). 1995;45[4]:179; Brant, et al. (J Am Acad Audiol. 1996;7[3]:152; Rubenstein, et al. (Gerontology. 1977;23[1]:4; Torre, et al. (J Speech Lang Hear Res. 2005;48[2]:473; Helzner, et al. (J Am Geriatr Soc. 2011;59(6):972; Lin, et al. (JAMA Intern Med. 2013;173[4]:293, among many others.

One research project that is of interest to this author is by Rubinstein, et. al, on the possible relationship between chronic cardiovascular disturbance and hearing status in adults (Gerontology. 1977 They found that adults with cardiovascular disease and signs of peripheral circulation disorders had significantly poorer thresholds in the 500 to 8,000 Hz frequency range compared with other subjects without cardiovascular disease. The researchers felt that this was related to a disturbance of the cochlea’s microcirculation. There are many possible causes of peripheral hearing loss, but whatever those might be, cardiovascular disease appears to exaggerate the degree of potential impact of those causes, and thus the degree of hearing loss.

Even among younger adults, there seems to be a relationship between early onset arteriosclerosis and changes within the cochlea. Nomiya, et al., compared temporal bones of young adult subjects who had arteriosclerosis with temporal bones from seven patients without arteriosclerosis (Otol Neurotol. 2008;29[8]:1193 They found that the temporal bones with generalized arteriosclerosis had significantly fewer ganglion cells at the basal turn of the cochlea, along with an atrophic spiral ganglion, which is associated with high-frequency sensorineural hearing loss.

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