Are Hearing Loss and Weight Related?

Posted Dec 5th, 2019 in Hearing Loss, Hearing Health


You have probably heard a great deal about the connection between bodyweight and the likelihood of developing such conditions as sleep apnea, diabetes and heart disease. What you may not have heard much about is the link between hearing loss and bodyweight.  In order to begin understanding that connection, you must first know something about the “hair cell,” an exceptionally small but incredibly important part of the inner ear.

What is a hair cell?

As powerful as the human brain is, it cannot translate sound waves without help. Hair cells are minuscule interpreters, resembling hair,  that receive soundwaves and turns them into electrical signals that travel along the auditory nerve to the brain. The brain, receiving that information in a language it understands, recognizes those signals as sound.

What powers hair cells?

Like much of the human body, hair cells count on a good supply of oxygen that is transported by healthy blood flow. When blood circulation is poor, hair cells can’t “breathe” well, so to speak. A lack of oxygen can damage or kill a hair cell, just as it can the broader human body. Since the body can’t fix hair cells, or generate new ones, once they are harmed, the damage is permanent, as is any hearing loss connected to the damage.

What does that have to do with bodyweight?

Fat puts pressure on the body’s attempt to move blood around, forcing the heart to work harder and harder. But even when the heart is putting in extra effort and increasing blood pressure throughout the body, blood still doesn’t make its way around smoothly. The farther something is from the heart, the more difficult it is for blood to reach it. The tiny blood vessels of the inner ear that feed your hair cells are just such locations; the struggle to get blood to a point that far from the heart results in the arrival of less oxygen and other nutrients hair cells depend on.

Does watching one’s waistline help?

According to a study from the John Hopkins School of Medicine, reducing your amount of stomach fat can definitely contribute to better blood flow. As the fat surrounding arteries goes away, so does the pressure it puts on the ability of those arteries to expand and let blood through.  The more stomach fat one loses, the more blood flow the body can recover.  

Given that we know our hair cells rely on what the bloodstream brings them, it makes perfect sense to say that reducing stomach fat can be beneficial to our hearing. And that isn’t simply an opinion; the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study noted a direct relationship between hearing loss risk and an individual’s level of stomach fat.  And in another connection to the standard wisdom regarding blood flow, the study also noted that exercise helped in protecting people from hearing loss.

If you have reason to suspect that hearing loss is a developing problem for you, please contact us today. We’ll be happy to schedule an appointment with you.

Article Sources:

Healthy Hearing. Hearing Loss and Heart Disease
Accessed Aug. 9, 2018. Hull RH.

Why Cardiovascular Health Should Be Added to the Hearing Case History. The Hearing Journal. 2014;67(5):22,24,26.

Stanford Health Care. Effects of Obesity.

Accessed Aug. 9, 2018.

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