So, recently you’ve noticed you’re starting to have difficulty hearing other people, and it’s not due to selective hearing this time. It might be time to get your hearing tested. Most people want to put this off for as long as they can. Because they don’t want to hear that it may be time to consider getting hearing aids.
But what good would it do you to put it off when you could be making efforts to lessen the severity of your hearing loss? Getting to the bottom of what’s causing your hearing loss is key to further prevention. Take a look at a few factors and lifestyle choices that contribute to hearing loss that may surprise you.
You may already know that stress is associated with tinnitus, a constant ringing, roaring, or other sound in your ear accompanied by dizziness and loss of balance. But it can also cause hearing loss. Stress causes high blood pressure, and in severe cases, it can cause hemorrhaging in your ears.
This is not to say everyone who experiences stress is going to go deaf. Stress is a natural part of daily life. It’s when it becomes constant that it can lead to additional health problems. When your body stays in a continual state of arousal, it doesn’t get the chance to normalize, causing strain on your body.
Smoking & Vaping
Smoking doesn’t seem like something that would affect your hearing, so you may be surprised at this one. The nicotine and carbon monoxide lower oxygen, and this causes your blood vessels to constrict. The constriction of the blood vessels slows down your blood flow inhibiting the inner ear.
Why Smoking Affects Your Hearing
- The Eustachian tube runs from your middle ear to the back of your throat. When you inhale the smoke from the cigarette, it irritates the lining of the tube. It also increases the pressure in your middle ear, causing it to feel closed, feel pain or even lead to hearing problems.
- Neurotransmitters are what carry information between your body and cells. Nicotine interferes with how these neurotransmitters work and can cause issues with transferring data between your inner ear to your brain. Without this crucial step, you won’t be able to understand and process the sounds you hear.
Vaping, like smoking, contains nicotine which causes a lack of oxygen in your bloodstream, which constricts blood vessels. This construction doesn’t allow the blood needed to keep the cilia healthy in your inner ear. The cilia are essential to processing sound. Once the cilia die, they do not grow back.
Like smoking, this one can be surprising to realize too. We already know that excessive drinking causes many chronic illnesses. Now, we also know it can lead to hearing loss. It makes you think twice about your daily after-work beers. It makes a bit of sense if you think about how when you drink, your balance suffers.
When you drink, alcohol changes the volume and composition of the fluid in the inner ear. Unlike smoking, drinking doesn’t constrict the blood vessels. It instead increases the blood flow. This increased blood flow can damage the auditory cortex over time, causing it to shrink, causing you to have trouble hearing certain sounds and lead to hearing loss over the years.
Noise-induced hearing loss is caused when you are exposed to loud noises repeatedly, causing the tiny hairs in your inner ear, known as cilia, to die. Once these tiny hairs die, they can not be regrown. These loud sounds come from things like loud music, gunfire, and similar high decibel sounds.
Surprisingly enough, nearly 1 in 4 workers are exposed to extremely high noise daily. While most of them are required to wear hearing protection, it doesn’t always adequately guard against hearing loss. The five jobs that have the highest risks include:
- Drilling for oil and gas
In recent years, there has been an increase in noise-related hearing loss from combat veterans, even when they used proper ear protection. Defective earplugs manufactured by 3M Corp may have caused many veterans to develop hearing loss.
Hearing loss isn’t the only negative effect of loud noise. It can also cause stress, anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure, and increase your heart rate. The noise pollution is so harmful that it is now considered to be a public health crisis.
If you are exposed for long periods to sounds above 85 decibels, it can cause long-term damage to your hearing. While most people already knew that sounds could damage our hearing, not everyone knows that other things can as well, such as the ones listed above. The most important thing you can do for your hearing is contacting your primary care physician for a hearing test.