Most of us can name a few situations that might damage our hearing. Noisy construction sites, blasting music through your earbuds, that exciting rock concert you attended last month, and even a night out with friends at the pub – these may all take a toll on your hearing. Did you know that some of your everyday habits could actually be damaging your hearing health? Here, we take a look at four habits that may harm your hearing.
Are you a smoker? You’ve heard a hundred times that smoking is bad for your health, and leads to cancer or heart disease, but old habits die hard. What you might not know is that smoking is also bad for your hearing health. What does smoking have to do with hearing?
When you smoke, certain chemicals that are released into the bloodstream bind to receptor sites that are responsible for hearing low-pitched sounds. The more you smoke, the stronger these bindings become, until you lose the ability to hear certain low sounds. Smoking also damages the delicate cells in the inner ear that process sound vibrations and translate them into electrical impulses to send to the brain. In case you needed another reason to quit, smoking causes a lot of damage to your ears and could lead to permanent hearing loss!
It might look like we’re trying to ruin your fun, but drinking is another habit that may be harming your hearing. Don’t panic. Having a glass of wine or a pint every now and again isn’t a concern. However, if you or a loved one struggle with heavy drinking habits, it’s not just your liver that suffers.
A 2010 study showed that moderate to high alcohol consumption put hearing health in jeopardy. High levels of alcohol in the body damages the hair cells in the inner ear, and inhibits your ability to process sounds. It also damages the central auditory cortex, or the part of the brain where sounds are interpreted, and leads to shrinkage of this cortex.
In recent years, there’s been a global shift in eating and exercise habits. We eat a lot more than we used to, don’t have balanced eating habits, and spend a lot more time sitting at desks rather than exercising. While the most visible effect of this is a rise in obesity, this actually contributes to diabetes and heart disease, both of which lead to circulation problems. Did you know this also affects your hearing?
When less blood is able to flow throughout the body, cells are starved for the nutrients they need to function properly, and cells in the ear and brain suffer. A recent study in 2013 found that those struggling with obesity and related conditions were 17% more likely to have hearing loss. A great way to combat obesity is to increase physical activity. The same study showed that even walking a few hours every week significantly lowered the risk of hearing loss.
Do you make yearly visits to the doctor to get a clean bill of health? Your general practitioner helps you maintain a healthy lifestyle, checks your overall health, and may also detect hearing loss. Age-related hearing loss is one of the most common forms of hearing loss, but there are other causes as well. Illness, injury, or infection can all damage your hearing. If you have an earwax buildup or an inflammation, your GP can catch it before it causes permanent damage. Going for your annual physical helps you keep on top of these concerns, and gives your GP a baseline for your general health. It’s tempting to wait until there’s an emergency before visiting the doctor, but if you have regular checkups, you can prevent issues before they become major health concerns, and get advice on how to monitor and manage your health.
Do you struggle with these or any other habits that may be harming your hearing? Don’t wait any longer – pop in and see us at one of our five House of Hearing centres to have your hearing assessed. We’ll work with you to find a treatment option that fits your lifestyle and needs, help you develop good habits that will prevent further damage, and show you how to protect your hearing for years to come.