Impact of Cardiovascular Health on Hearing: Interview with Ray Hull

Article excerpt

Do you belong to a sports club or gym? Do you like to work out, play tennis, swim, or run regularly? If so, you are also improving your hearing health. I did not learn this from a sports column; I learned it from interviewing Ray Hull. Dr. Raymond H. Hull, PhD, is a professor of communication sciences and disorders, audiology, and director of the Center for Research in Communicative Sciences and Disorders in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, School of Health Sciences, at Wichita State University. Judging by the number of popular news media and reporters who are interviewing him lately, many people are interested in what he has to say. A strong cardiovascular system is necessary for good hearing at any age, but it really makes a noticeable difference as we grown older. Dr. Hull's combination of knowledge about communication sciences, hearing health, and cardiovascular strength made for a lively interview. It may convince you to "pump up" that personal exercise program to keep the blood flowing!

Q: Some of us are not sure what is meant by the term cardiovascular health--would you explain it?

A: Cardiovascular health refers to the ability of the heart, vascular, and respiratory systems to function in such a way as to provide the oxygen and nutrients necessary for good health.

Q: What is the connection with hearing?

A: The inner ear and central auditory pathways require strong oxygen and nutrient support for proper function. In particular, the cochlea has a large vascular system and is quite vulnerable to oxygen and nutrient deprivation. The health of the cochlea will decline quite rapidly if blood supply is reduced even for a brief period, resulting in a reduction of hearing even to severe levels. Likewise, the central auditory system requires a vibrant oxygen/nutrient supply for optimal function.

Q: Is this the same as presbycusis?

A: A strong and healthy vascular system is necessary for maintenance of good hearing at any age. However, the relationship between the cardiovascular health of an individual and his or her hearing acuity and central auditory processing function can certainly involve an age--cardiovascular health synergy. An older adult with poor cardiovascular health is at greater risk for both peripheral and central auditory dysfunction than an active older adult with good cardiovascular health.

Q: Does this apply to other populations besides older persons?

A: As I stated above, a strong and vital cardiovascular system is necessary for maintenance of good hearing at any age, although research has concentrated on the impact of good cardiovascular health and hearing among older adults. But, for example, research is also indicating that even younger adults with strong cardiovascular health appear to be less prone to damage to the cochlea from noise exposure as compared to those who lead a sedentary life style.

Q: Is there any interdisciplinary research in this area? Is there research in communication sciences and disorders?

A: I have in front of me more than 20 research articles on the relationship between cardiovascular health and hearing. The journals in which they are published range in variety, including the Journal of the American Academy of Audiology, The Hearing Journal, Neurobiology of Aging, the Journal of Neuroscience, Psychological Science, Scandinavian Audiology, Perceptual and Motor Skills, Acta Otolaryngologica, Archives of Otolaryngology--Head and Neck Surgery, the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. In other words, the interest in this area appears to be as broad as the fields of hearing, medicine, and sports medicine can span. The primary research in this area is not published in journals related to communication sciences and disorders but rather journals that have as their primary emphasis health and fitness. Much of the research in this area has been conducted by professionals in the field of audiology, but certainly not all. …