Forty-eight million Americans have some degree of hearing loss, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). Not surprisingly, hearing loss has many possible causes. Topping the list of culprits is frequent exposure to loud noise, aging, injury, infection, ototoxic drugs, and shingles. However, there are risk factors for hearing loss that may come as a surprise. Knowing these hidden risks can help you protect your hearing.
People with sleep apnea are more at risk for hearing loss than others who do not have sleep apnea. The reason is a mystery. However, medical professionals think it is related to the reduction in blood supply to the inner ear, which is part of the condition. Of course, years of loud snoring can also damage hearing.
As your body mass index (BMI) rises, so does the risk of hearing loss. A report on a study involving more than 64,000 women with a BMI between 30 and 34 shows a 17 percent higher risk of hearing loss. The good news is that women who walked more than two hours per week were 15 percent less likely to have hearing problems.
If you habitually drink excessive amounts of alcohol, you may need to worry about your hearing. Excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages damages the central auditory cortex, which increases the amount of time it takes for your brain to process sound. Alcohol can cause balance problems due to alcohol absorption into the fluid of the inner ear.
Chronic stress can cause numerous health problems. Stress causes circulation problems which affect hearing. Acute stress forces oxygen to muscles so the body can move swiftly. This shunting of blood ultimately ends in hearing loss as the blood flow to the inner ear is limited.
Nicotine, an addictive chemical that restricts blood flow to all parts of your body, is bad for your health. The chemical is also harmful to your hearing health because it restricts blood flow to your ears. Vaping with nicotine affects your hearing just like regular cigarettes. Leaving the nicotine out is not much better. Flavorings, colorings, and other additives added for flavor contain propylene glycol which may harm the ears.
Mumps causes swelling of the salivary glands. In extreme cases, mumps can also lead to hearing loss. The common belief by the medical community is that mumps damages the cochlea. The cochlea contains stereocilia and the stria vacularis, which are both critical for proper hearing.
A study suggests a relationship between iron deficiency and hearing loss. People with iron deficiency are twice as likely to have hearing loss than those without an iron deficiency. The mineral plays a vital role in keeping blood flowing to the cells of the inner ear, which process sound.
Your hearing health depends on being aware of the hazards in the home, at work, and in the environment. Being aware of these dangers, including the lesser-known risks, will help you protect your hearing. If you have any questions about hearing aids, smart hearing aids or about your personal experience with hearing loss, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Autumn Oak Speech, Voice & Hearing. We are happy to help!