Blood pressure is one of the main ‘vital signs’ measured by doctors and nurses to check your health. Together with your heart rate, it can give great insight into your health at the moment it’s taken.
Here, we take a look at how blood pressure can affect your hearing.

What is the role of blood pressure in the body?

The reason you have blood pressure at all is because your heart pumps blood through your blood vessels to reach all of your organs, literally from head to toe.

The underlying physics is complicated, but without going into too much detail, the more blood you pump (volume) and the smaller the tube you pump it through, then the higher your blood pressure.

You may know that a doctor will give you two blood pressure readings, for example ‘120 over 80’ written as ‘120/80’. The bigger number is the ‘systolic’ and the smaller number the ‘diastolic’ pressure. 

The higher systolic pressure is a result of your heart pumping, therefore pushing a higher volume of blood through your blood vessels. The lower, diastolic pressure is a result of your heart relaxing, and therefore less volume flows through the vessels.

Can high blood pressure affect your hearing?

High blood pressure, or hypertension, can have various effects on your health. One of the ways it does this is directly, i.e. from the extra pressure exerted by blood and blood vessels.

Hypertension can accelerate the ‘wear and tear’ of the auditory system in your ears — the complex system that allows you to interpret sounds and hear them. Research has shown that long term hypertension is also linked with fatty plaque build-up in your blood vessels, depriving your ear and internal structures of much-needed blood and nutrients.

The end result is that high blood pressure over both the short and long term can have a noticeable effect on your hearing. The current theory is that very high blood pressure can permanently damage the tiny blood vessels in your ears, reducing your ability to hear the full spectrum of sound.

Can low blood pressure cause hearing loss?

In short, no. Day-to-day low blood pressure does not generally cause hearing loss — but it has been known to happen in specific situations.1

Some research has shown that hypotension (low blood pressure) and sensorineural (nervous system) hearing loss were related, but only a very small percentage of the people with low blood pressure who took part were found to have hearing loss. 

Earlier studies have suggested that sudden low blood pressure can lead to cochlear damage.2 There hasn’t been much research into this area since the beginning of the 2000s, but in 2020 a paediatric study concluded that low blood pressure in extremely low birth-weight infants in the first 24 hours of life put them at increased risk of sensorineural hearing loss.3

Is acute sudden hearing loss linked to strokes?

Acute, or sudden, hearing loss is a very distressing symptom that has been linked in some cases to stroke.

There is a well-known study linking sudden hearing loss and stroke.4 This study found that there was a 150% (more than double) increase in the chance of having a stroke after experiencing sudden hearing loss. This isn’t to say, though, that because you have experienced sudden hearing loss you will have a stroke, just that there may be an increased likelihood. 

Sudden hearing loss should always be checked out by a hearing professional, as it can often be a symptom of something else.

How can I prevent blood pressure induced hearing loss?

If you are concerned about blood pressure induced hearing loss, by far the most effective method is good management of any hypertension you may already have.

It’s best to discuss this with your GP as everyone’s situation will be different. However, some good universal steps to reducing your blood pressure include regular exercise, stress reduction and a healthy, varied diet.

I already have hearing loss, what are my options?

If you have already been diagnosed with blood pressure related hearing loss, proper management of your hypertension is vital to prevent your hearing from being affected any further.

If you have any concerns at all about your hearing, make sure to book an appointment with one of our audiology experts. Hearing loss can be distressing and difficult to manage on your own, our expert teams can make sure your hearing needs are properly assessed and treated.

You can find lots of information about the causes of hearing loss here. If you’d like to learn more about hearing loss, have a look at our hearing loss information hub.

References

1. Pirodda A, Ferri GG, Modugno GC, Gaddi A. Hypotension and sensorineural hearing loss: a possible correlation. Acta Otolaryngol. 1999;119(7):758-762. doi:10.1080/00016489950180388

2. Pirodda A, Ferri GG, Modugno GC, Gaddi A. Hypotension and sensorineural hearing loss: a possible correlation. Acta Otolaryngol. 1999;119(7):758-762. doi:10.1080/00016489950180388

3. Gogcu S, Washburn L, O'Shea TM. Treatment for hypotension in the first 24 postnatal hours and the risk of hearing loss among extremely low birth weight infants. J Perinatol. 2020;40(5):774-780. doi:10.1038/s41372-020-0628-y 

4. Lin HC, Chao PZ, Lee HC. Sudden sensorineural hearing loss increases the risk of stroke: a 5-year follow-up study. Stroke. 2008;39(10):2744-8.

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