Contributed by Joy Victory, managing editor, Healthy Hearing
Looking for another reason to break all those bad health habits you’ve been accumulating? These five bad habits in particular are linked to hearing loss:
Nicotine restricts blood flow to the ears, potentially damaging delicate ear cells. The more you smoke, the greater the risk for damage—not only your hearing, but also the hearing of the people you love most. Studies show that adolescents exposed to second-hand smoke were almost twice as likely to experience low-frequency hearing loss as those who had no exposure.
The same goes for vaping. E-cigarettes that contain nicotine have a similar impact on the ear’s hair cells as smoking does. And the flavored fluids, or “e juices,” contain hundreds of chemicals with unknown health impacts. At least one, propylene glycol, is linked to sudden hearing loss.
A lifetime of over-indulging can damage more than your liver. Health experts believe that alcohol may interfere with the brain’s ability to interpret sound, especially sounds in the lower frequencies, and create a toxic environment in the inner ear itself that is damaging to the hair cells of the cochlea. The central auditory cortex of the brain may actually shrink in people who drink excessively, meaning that the nerve that is responsible for processing sound is negatively impacted.
Not taking care of your teeth
It seems odd to think that taking good care of your teeth can actually benefit your hearing, but it’s true. When your teeth and gums are healthy, your mouth is free from the bacteria that can cause infections and swelling. When oral bacteria enters the bloodstream, it can cause inflammation and narrowing of the arteries—and poor circulation is detrimental to hearing health.
Ignoring hearing loss
Last but certainly not least: Many people go years before seeking help for hearing loss, partly due to the stigma of wearing hearing aids. But this has long-term health impacts—when your brain isn’t hearing all the noises it used to, you’re at higher risk of cognitive decline, including dementia.
That’s why, above all else, if you suspect you have hearing loss, schedule an appointment with a hearing care practitioner right away. A good starting place is our online directory of hearing clinics has thousands of verified customer reviews, sorted by the clinics that are closest to you.