Your Mouth & Your Ears: The Connection Between Oral Health and Hearing Loss

One of the first things that many of us learn to do independently as children is how to brush our teeth. We’re taught the importance of daily brushing to maintain our oral health.

To maintain our smiles, many of us visit a dental practitioner at least once a year. After all, there’s nothing worse than tooth pain! Cavities and gum disease are known risks of poor dental care.

What you might not associate with your oral health, is hearing loss. That’s right! A growing amount of research is highlighting the connection between oral health and hearing loss.

Poor oral health can potentially impact the health of our hearts, and in some cases our blood circulation. In turn, this can affect our hearing health.

Heart Disease and Your Oral Health

Researchers are increasingly seeing links between poor oral health and cardiovascular problems. That is, people with dental issues like gum disease or tooth loss are at a higher risk of a heart attack or a stroke than people with good oral health.

Researches remain unsure as to exactly how our oral health is connected to heart disease. However, a few theories include: 

  • Bacteria. Gingivitis and periodontitis are also known as gum disease. The bacteria that cause these issues can cause inflammation. Researchers hypothesize that the bacteria can potentially travel to blood vessels elsewhere in our body. They can cause inflammation and damage in this area of our body. In turn, this can lead to tiny blood clots, which can result in a heart attack or stroke.
  • Inflammation. Our body’s natural immune response to illness (like gum disease) can result in inflammation. This inflammation can result in vascular damage through the body, including the brain and the heart.

Scientists also note that there may be no direct connection between heart disease and oral health. Rather, it’s a third factor (like smoking) that exacerbates both conditions.

A study from 2018 looked at this a little more closely. The study looked at close to one million people who had experienced over 60,000 cardiovascular events, including heart attacks. The research found that:

  • “After accounting for age, there was a moderate correlation between tooth loss (a measure of poor oral health) and coronary heart disease.
  • When smoking status was considered, the connection between tooth loss and cardiovascular disease largely disappeared” (Source)

The Connection Between Oral Health and Hearing Loss

So where do our ears play into this entire equation? Is there a connection between oral health and hearing loss?

First, it’s important to understand how our ears work. Our ears rely on a sophisticated system of nerves and blood vessels to function properly. Adequate blood flow is important to maintain optimal hearing health. You can learn more about how your ears work in this article.

If poor oral health can in fact lead to problems with our blood vessels, then it also has the potential to cause hearing loss. When our ears do not get an adequate amount of oxygen rich blood, the poor blood flow can result in hearing loss.

In some cases it can cause something known as Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SSHL). SSHL can be an emergency, learn more by clicking here.

Further research is needed to help identify the exact connection between our oral health and hearing loss. However, what is clear is that our body is a sophisticated system that is all connected. Staying on top of our physical health is important. Equally important is staying on top of our hearing health. Your hearing health may actually help to indicate other health problems in your body.

You can keep on top of your hearing health with an annual hearing assessment. If you’re due a check-up, please get in touch with the hearing specialists at Hearing, Balance & Speech Center. Call us on (203) 208-3678 or request an appointment online.

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The purpose of this hearing assessment and/or demonstration is for hearing wellness and to determine if the consumer may benefit from using hearing aids, which may include selling and fitting hearing aids. Products demonstrated may differ from products sold. Assessment conclusion is not a medical diagnosis and further testing may be required to diagnose hearing loss. The use of any hearing aid may not fully restore normal hearing and does not prevent future hearing loss. Hearing instruments may not meet the needs of all hearing-impaired individuals.