Hearing loss increases your risk of developing a variety of health complications; these include isolation, depression, dementia and falls. It’s estimated that around 20 percent of the population in Wilmington experiences impaired hearing to a certain degree; new research suggests these individuals are more likely to have high blood pressure than people with normal hearing.
Hypertension & Hearing Loss
Researchers examined the correlation between occupational noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) and blood pressure. There are more than 600 million workers at risk globally; they are exposed to hazardous noise levels in the workplace, making occupational NIHL one of the most common job-related diseases around the world.
Correlation With Noise Exposure
In the U.S. alone, over 100 million adults suffer from high blood pressure. Despite efforts to link noise exposure and hypertension in the past, results were inconclusive given the difficulty in assessing total noise exposure over an extended time. A Chinese research team looked at a large pool of data from 21,403 workers (average age: 40) with occupational noise exposure, focusing on results of audiometric testing and blood pressure readings. By using hearing loss as a marker for noise exposure, they found that chronic noise exposure increases the risk of hypertension. The longer workers had been exposed to occupational noise, the higher the likelihood they would develop hearing loss. Patients with mild hearing impairment had a 34 percent higher risk of hypertension, while those with severe hearing loss saw their odds shoot up along with their blood pressure—281 percent higher, to be exact. Based on these results, the study’s authors concluded that occupational noise exposure “was positively associated with blood pressure levels and hypertension risk.”
Risks were higher in men than women; the authors believe this is due to the fact that males are more likely to work in noisy environments than females. The size of the sample and reliance upon multiple measurement tools (both hearing loss and length of work) lend support to the findings. However, the lack of long-term patient follow-up, inability to account for other risk factors for hypertension such as BMI, tobacco and alcohol use and psychological factors, and the fact that researchers had no way to measure actual workplace noise levels and determine whether workers wore hearing protection all cast a shadow over the results. It’s simply impossible to make a positive correlation between noise and high blood pressure without further testing—but the likelihood is high enough that physicians are recommended to screen patients with high blood pressure for hearing loss (and vice-versa), especially if they fall into a high-risk category.
For more information on hearing loss and its link to high blood pressure and other health conditions, contact an audiologist in Wilmington.