How Quitting Smoking & Lowering Blood Pressure Could Support Healthy Hearing

how quitting smoking and lowering blood pressure could support healthy hearing
Dr. Steinberg
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Your hearing is connected to many other aspects of health. On the one hand, untreated hearing loss can start a chain reaction of other negative health effects ranging from the physical to the mental and cognitive. In addition, some aspects of your physical health can affect hearing loss. Some of these are beyond your control, but two aspects of your lifestyle can contribute to hearing loss: smoking and cardiovascular health. To understand these connections, we need to look first at the way that these behaviors can contribute to hearing loss. With that information in hand, we can consider some tactics to transform your lifestyle, leading to health benefits not only in your lungs and cardiovascular system but also for your hearing.


Hearing Loss and Oxygen Supply


Your hearing ability might seem quite distant from the heart and lungs, but the interconnectedness of the body’s systems means that one organ can affect all the others. Such is the case with the lungs, heart, and ears. Deep in your inner ear, tiny hairlike organelles called stereocilia are responsible for transforming sound pressure into an electrical impulse that the brain can receive. The stereocilia are extremely sensitive to changes in pressure, but that same sensitivity can make them susceptible to damage, as well. One of the ways the stereocilia can be damaged is through noise exposure, but they can also be damaged through oxygen deprivation. Even slight changes in the oxygen they receive can lead to bending, breaking, or other damage to these cell clusters. The connection between hearing and oxygen supply helps us understand the link between smoking and cardiovascular health. 


Smoking limits the oxygen supply that is provided to the body. When the lungs are compromised through smoking, they cannot draw as much oxygen from the air as they should. Furthermore, cardiovascular health can limit the ability to pump oxygen through the body. Even if a person is a non-smoker, a weak heart or clogged blood vessels can make it impossible to push oxygenated blood to the places that require it. For these reasons, smoking and poor cardiovascular health can have a direct effect on hearing ability. The statistics bear out that those who are smokers and who have cardiovascular disease are both more likely to have hearing loss than their counterparts who do not smoke or who do not have heart health issues. 


Building a Healthy Lifestyle


If you are concerned about your hearing ability, some lifestyle changes can help you prevent hearing loss. In the first place, smoking cessation will not only benefit your hearing but a vast array of other physical health issues. Quitting smoking can be difficult, but support is available. Talk with your doctor about approaches to smoking cessation including nicotine gums, patches, and even mindfulness methods. Apps are available for your smartphone to help you track your progress and to provide an online community of support. Promoting heart health comes in many forms, but the main two lifestyle changes you can make include nutrition and exercise. 


Two diets have shown great success at promoting heart health: the Mediterranean Diet and Dietary Approaches to Stopping Hypertension (DASH). These diets have in common an emphasis on whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables. They both encourage limited consumption of saturated fats, particularly those coming from red meat, dairy, and processed foods. When it comes to exercise, you don’t need to automatically get a gym membership to build physical activity into your daily routine. 


Simple steps like taking a walk around the neighborhood or taking the stairs at work can strengthen your heart and blood vessels without requiring specialized equipment or long amounts of time. With these lifestyle changes in mind, you will be contributing to your general health and wellness, but you will also be taking steps toward preventing hearing loss. If you have already lost some hearing ability, the good news is that treatment is available. Don’t hesitate to make an appointment for a hearing test if you are concerned about your hearing ability. With a diagnosis in hand, our hearing health professionals can help you on the path toward assistance.