What is the link between hypertension (high blood pressure) and hearing loss?
What is Hypertension?
Hypertension or high blood pressure is diagnosed when a person has a systolic blood pressure* > 140 mm Hg and/or a diastolic blood pressure** > 90 mmHg. It is a common chronic disease that affects 1 in 4 Singaporeans between the ages of 30 and 69 years old.
It is often referred to as a “silent killer” as people with hypertension may not experience any obvious symptoms. However it is a major risk factor for many illnesses such as heart disease and stroke.
If left unmanaged, hypertension can potentially lead to life threatening conditions such as intracerebral haemorrhage, kidney failure and heart failure.
*Systolic blood pressure is the pressure measurement in your arteries when your heart beats.
**Diastolic blood pressure is the pressure measurement in your arteries when your heart rests.
How does hypertension occur?
A person’s blood pressure usually fluctuates throughout the day. Blood pressure usually rises when a person wakes up and peaks towards midday. Blood pressure usually starts dropping towards the afternoon and becomes its lowest when a person is sleeping. Blood pressure is also affected by exercise, stress, sleep patterns and diet. Temporary changes in blood pressure does not warranty a hypertension diagnosis. A person is only diagnosed with hypertension when the person has a sustained high blood pressure at 3 or more measurements.
There are many factors that contribute to hypertension. And the exact cause of a person’s hypertension is not always known. 90-95% of hypertension cases are classified as primary hypertension and attributed to genetic and lifestyle factors. While the other 5-10% of hypertension cases are classified as secondary hypertension and usually have an identifiable cause.
(1) Primary hypertension: Genes, smoking, obesity, high salt intake, alcohol consumption, stress, lack of exercise and aging
(2) Secondary hypertensions: Obstructive sleep apnea, heart defects, kidney disease, drugs, adrenal and thyroid conditions.
Hypertension can lead to hearing loss
The human ear relies on a network of blood vessels to function normally. When a person’s blood pressure is high, it can damage the lining of artery walls supporting the ears, hence leading to hearing loss and tinnitus. The link between hypertension and hearing loss is supported by multiple studies:
Study on subjects aged between 45-64 years old suggests hypertension increases the rate of age related hearing loss.
Study associates hypertension with sensorineural high frequency hearing loss
Longitudinal study on 900 participants in Brazil showed that poorer hearing ability and higher risk of tinnitus is observed in participants with hypertension.
Longitudinal tudy on 54,721 women n Nurses’ Health Study I (NHSI) showed history of hypertension was associated with an increased risk of hearing loss.
Longitudinal study suggests mid-life high systolic blood pressure is associated with poorer hearing thresholds in later life.
Annual health check ups for early detection
If you have hypertension, do consider having annual hearing tests with an audiologist. If you have hearing loss of unknown cause, do go for a full health check up with your family doctor.
While hypertension cannot be cured, it can be controlled with medication and healthy lifestyle changes. Getting hypertension detected early not only reduces your risk of hearing deterioration prevents other health complications.
Useful articles on hypertension
HealthHub – Healthy healthy blood pressure eating guide
National Heart Centre Singapore – Hypertension and management
National Heart Centre Singapore – 5 things to know about hypertension
Mayo Clinic – Hypertension
Mount Elizabeth Hospital – Article on hypertension
Local statistics on hypertension (Singapore)
Hypertension in a multi-ethnic Asian population of Singapore
Asian management of hypertension: current status, home blood pressure, and specific concerns in Singapore.
National Population Health Survey (NPHS) report 2019 by the Ministry of Health (MOH) Health Promotion Board (HPB)