By now, we’re all rather familiar with what to limit or avoid when it comes to hearing health. We’ve heard the horror stories about cotton buds and punctured eardrums, and we know to book tickets away from the speakers at concerts. When it comes to headphones, cinema trips, and sports events, the phrase “enjoy in moderation” is our friend. If joy is taken out of each of these things responsibly, they pose no major risk to our hearing health.
But when it comes to bad habits like smoking, there are often so many health risks that some even slip under the radar. After lighting up, many smokers may feel guilty or concerned about the damage they are doing to their heart and lungs, but do many know how their ability to hear might be impacted?
These are awful habits that can have devastating impacts on your life and those around you, so if you are looking for a reason to kick them, there is no better time than the New Year.
Surprise, surprise (not) – smoking is first on the list. From cancer, heart disease, to strokes and diabetes, you can add damaging hearing health to the pile of smoking risks. Studies have proven that exposure to cigarette smoke, whether directly, second-hand, or in utero, affects hearing health. Those exposed are also two to three times more likely to develop hearing loss compared to those with no exposure. Nicotine and deadly carbon monoxide lower oxygen levels in the blood and constrict blood vessels all over the body including those in your inner ear. Compared to non-smokers, smokers have a 70% greater chance of developing hearing loss!
Did you know that vaping is appearing to have similar risks to smoking when it comes to hearing health? In fact, depending on the chemicals used in vape liquids and e-juices, vaping may even be more harmful. The problem is that the flavours used in vape liquids remain largely unregulated and unchecked. Some chemicals, including propylene glycol, have even been directly linked to hearing loss!
It is well established that alcohol misuse can lead to the development of a range of chronic diseases including cancer, heart and liver disease, strokes, and liver cirrhosis, but what does it do to your ears?
Well, excessive drinking damages the auditory cortex in the brain affecting the way that the brain processes sound. The auditory nerves transfer the auditory information we hear into the brain so that it can be translated, so even if the ears are functioning properly, the brain may be unable to process the sounds correctly. It also creates a toxic environment in the inner ear by destroying hair cells that will not regenerate. As soon as the damage is permanent, hearing loss will occur. Additionally, the central auditory cortex of the brain may shrink in people who drink excessively.
Poor Dental Hygiene
Did you know that there is a strong connection between your oral health and your ability to hear?
Here is why: tooth decay and gum disease are caused by pathogenic bacteria which can enter the bloodstream and threaten overall health. Harmful bacteria which originate in the mouth can inflame and narrow the arteries and blood vessels located in the ears and brain. This will prevent the healthy flow of blood and may even result in blood clots. Hair cells in the cochlea require healthy blood circulation, so if blood circulation is low, they may become damaged or even permanently destroyed ultimately causing hearing loss.
Hopefully, we have increased your awareness about how bad habits can have devastating impacts on your hearing health and will encourage those of you with one or more of these bad habits to stop!