Is Weight Connected to Hearing Loss?
Studies about weight often concern its relation to overall health. Common connections include weight and the risk for or prevalence of heart disease, diabetes, and sleep apnea, to name a few. One topic that doesn’t get as much attention is the connection between weight and risk for hearing loss. But is there a connection? To understand how weight affects hearing, you need to know about something tiny but important in your inner ear: the hair cell.
The Hair Cell
Your brain doesn’t understand sound waves. Tiny, hair-like structures in your inner ear, called hair cells, translate sound waves into a language — electrical signals — your brain understands. It sends those signals to your brain through the auditory nerve, and your brain interprets the signals as sound information.
Care and Feeding of Your Hair Cells
Hair cells need plenty of oxygen, which they get from strong, rich blood flow. If you have poor circulation, your hair cells don’t get sufficient nourishment. This leads to cell damage or death. Your body can’t repair hair cells — the damage is done, leaving fewer opportunities for sound information to reach your brain. Hearing loss due to damaged or destroyed hair cells is permanent.
Weight and Blood Flow
The more fat tissue in the body, the harder the heart has to work to get blood where it needs to go. Despite the extra work and increased blood pressure, the blood doesn’t actually move through the body as easily. It’s harder for the blood to reach areas farther away from the heart, such as the tiny blood vessels in your inner ear. Again, the poorer the blood flow, the less nourishment for your hair cells.
Is the Belly the Culprit?
Results from a John Hopkins School of Medicine study reported that improvement in blood flow is directly related to a reduction in excess belly fat. How? As belly fat is lost, the arteries regain their ability to expand, allowing blood to flow freely. The greater the reduction of belly fat, the stronger the recovery of healthy blood flow. So it stands to reason that reducing belly fat would lead to better hearing. And results from the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study support that reasoning: They found a direct correlation between amount of belly fat and risk of hearing loss. They also found that exercise protected against hearing loss.
If you suspect you might have hearing loss, contact us today to schedule an appointment!