Most people understand that hearing loss can be caused by exposure to noise. The CDC reports that an estimated 12.5% of children and adolescents aged 6–19 years (approximately 5.2 million) and 17% of adults aged 20–69 years (approximately 26 million) have suffered permanent damage to their hearing from excessive exposure to noise. It is important to understand the amount of noise you are exposed to and protect your ears as often as you can.
Many people also understand that age is a huge factor in hearing loss. In fact one in three people over the age of 65 affected, making it important to screen for hearing loss as you reach this demographic. If a hearing loss is detected it is important to seek treatment before it becomes a bigger issue. Untreated hearing loss can cause a strain on personal and professional relationships, decrease employment opportunities, cause chronic depression, cognitive decline and increase the risk of falls, accidents and even hospitalizations.
Understanding what puts your hearing at risk can prevent hearing loss from developing earlier. Identifying factors such as exposure to noise is a big step in protecting your hearing, however, there are many other causes of hearing loss that you may be doing and not even realize! Here are a few less obvious causes of hearing loss. Identifying them will allow you to make the choice to protect your hearing for the future.
Smoking and Second-Hand Smoke
If you are a smoker, you are probably aware of some of the dangerous effects on health due to tobacco use. Aside from lung, heart and cancer issues, nicotine and carbon monoxide in smoking lower oxygen blood levels. This constricts blood vessels over the entire body. Hearing loss occurs when the tiny cells of the inner ear, which are responsible for sending audio information to the brain, become damaged. When your blood cells become constricted due to tobacco use, these inner ear cells become damaged.
One study examined over 3,500 people, and found that smokers were nearly 70% more likely than non-smokers to experience hearing loss. The study found that the more a person smoked, the more severe their hearing loss. It was also found that secondhand smoke exposure raised the risk of hearing loss. Consistent exposure was thought to raise the risk by one-third. If you were looking for another reason to quit, this is just one more from a long list.
Also known as high blood pressure, hypertension can lead to a slew of frightening health complications such as heart attack, strokes, aneurysms, or even heart failure. However, many people don’t realize that it is also a major cause of hearing loss. This is because hypertension can damage blood vessels, causing them to narrow, rupture or leak. This can easily damage or deprive the cells of the inner ear of the oxygenated blood they need to thrive, causing hearing loss. If you have hearing loss, it is important to control your blood pressure with medication and make sure to eat a healthy diet full of whole foods, vegetables and lean proteins, in conjunction with daily exercise.
A recent study found that hearing loss is more than twice as likely in people who live with diabetes than in those who don’t. Diabetes is a chronic disease that develops when your blood sugar is too high. Blood sugar helps you create energy and is generated from the food you eat. A hormone called insulin helps blood sugar enter your cells and diabetes occurs when your body doesn’t create any or enough insulin, damaging your cells over time. Your cells of the inner ear are not safe from diabetes so it is important to take treating diabetes seriously. If you have diabetes, make sure to let your audiologist know.
Airbags are deployed when you have a head-on collision and have saved many lives. However, when they are released they can create a lasting and unexpected impact on your hearing. Studies show that 17-20% of people who have been in car accidents where airbags involving airbags have experienced damage to their hearing. This is most likely because an impact on the head is a common cause of hearing loss.
Treat Your Hearing Loss Now
There are so many causes of hearing loss. It is important to be vigilant and protect your hearing loss as much as possible, but even the best defenses cannot prepare for everything. The good news is that you can treat your hearing loss, if it does occur, with hearing aids. Contact us now to set up a hearing test and deal with your hearing loss before it has a chance to affect your life more seriously.