The Crazy Connection Between Your Mouth and Ears

Man in the dentist's chair.

From the time we’re children, we’re told to take good care of our teeth. A growing body of research shows that inadequate oral care not only leads to cavities and gum disease. It can also have an adverse effect on heart health and blood circulation.

Because a well-functioning heart and proper blood flow are critical to the workings of the inner ear, people experiencing hearing loss may be able to trace the problem back to their hearts. From there, they may discover that problems in their mouths were the actual origin of the problem.

Oral health and heart disease

Several research studies have demonstrated a connection between gum disease and heart disease, with indications pointing to an increased risk of heart problems when gum problems are present. Many scientists believe that the inflammation caused by gum disease is the culprit when it comes to having a negative effect on heart health. One study showed a link between tooth infections and heart disease.

Researchers in that study found that people who had infections at the tips of their tooth roots were 2.7 times more likely to have acute coronary syndrome. This condition leads to a blockage of the blood supply to the heart. This is a very serious condition that can lead to problems that then travel to the ear and affect hearing.

Heart problems and hearing

A large body of research shows a connection between the heart, blood, and ears. Studies show that poor heart health and circulatory problems are connected to hearing loss and that good heart health is connected to healthy hearing. The inner ear, especially the cochlea that is critical to good hearing, depends on a constant flow of blood. A poor flow can affect how the cochlea functions and lead to hearing problems. Trauma to the blood vessels in the ear can also lead to hearing loss. Poor blood circulation may lead to sudden deafness, also known as sudden sensorineural hearing loss, or SSHL.

People usually experience this condition in one ear, though some experience it in both. This sudden deafness usually goes away in a few days, but about 15 percent of people that have the condition experience hearing problems that get worse over time. Advances in audiology make it easier for doctors to treat this type of hearing loss, but preventative measures that you can take yourself are a good first step.

Exploring the mouth, heart, and ear connections

A large body of research leaves little doubt that healthy teeth can help people maintain a healthy heart and that a healthy heart can help support the blood flow that is necessary for the inner ear to work properly. Conversely, poor oral health care can lead to heart problems that then affect people’s ability to hear. Further research is needed so that scientists can pinpoint the exact causal pathways that lead to these connections between the mouth, heart, and ears. In the meantime, because we know that these relationships do exist, we need to take oral health more seriously. Consider it part of the good overall health that researchers have shown time and again helps protect your hearing and leads to a better quality of life.

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