If you are one of the millions of Americans with high cholesterol, you may also be at an increased risk of hearing loss.
What Is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a type of lipid that is found in your blood and cells. Humans naturally produce cholesterol in the liver. However, we also absorb it into the body by eating certain foods like meat, dairy and animal fats.
In the right amount, cholesterol is essential for your body to function. However, if your levels get too high, it can increase your risk of heart disease and other health problems.
Researching the Link Between Cholesterol and Hearing
Several different studies have found a link between higher cholesterol and an increased risk of hearing loss, including:
- A 2011 study found both that a diet high in cholesterol can negatively impact hearing and that switching to a low-cholesterol diet and taking cholesterol-lowering medications may decrease your risk.
- A 2014 study found that patients with high cholesterol were more likely to experience sudden sensorineural hearing loss.
How Cholesterol Increases Your Hearing Loss Risk
High cholesterol can build up and disrupt blood flow to certain parts of your body, including your ears. The hair cells of your inner ear are crucial to hearing. Poor blood flow or reduced oxygen levels can damage these cells, and once this happens, there is no way for them to be repaired or regenerated. Once enough hair cells have been damaged, you will experience permanent hearing loss.
Ways To Lower Your Cholesterol
Taking steps to maintain healthy cholesterol can benefit many aspects of your health and reduce your risk of hearing loss. Ways to do this include:
- Eating a diet full of fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grains and low on unhealthy fats and processed foods
- Getting regular exercise most days of the week
- Avoid smoking
- Get regular checkups to monitor your cholesterol levels
- Taking any cholesterol-lowering medications as prescribed by your doctor
When To Get Your Hearing Checked
Any hearing loss due to high cholesterol is likely gradual. However, since early treatment will provide the best hearing outcomes, it’s important to be on alert for any signs and to schedule a hearing test if you experience them. Signs include:
- Tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in the ear)
- Trouble hearing-high pitched sounds
- Difficulty following conversations, especially on the phone or when out somewhere busy, like Tin Roof
- Needing people to repeat themselves frequently
- Turning the volume up on the TV or radio louder than you used to
If hearing loss is discovered upon your appointment with an audiologist, the most likely treatment is hearing aids. Finding the right custom pair can greatly improve your listening experience and help keep you connected to those around you.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call San Diego ENT today.