Today, hearing loss affects over 40 million people and that number is set to balloon to over 70 million in coming decades. Part of this increase is the consequence of living in a louder world, and a world that presents hazards to our hearing that we may not even recognize.
Irreversible hearing loss is mainly caused by damage to the sensitive apparatus of our inner ears. Our inner ear, especially its delicate hair cells can be damaged gradually over time and may be affected dramatically by our general health. Additionally, the inner ear becomes more brittle as we age so hearing damage sustained in earlier years compounds our hearing loss as we get older.
A way to keep your hearing healthy is to learn to understand what presents a threat. Here are some of the most unsuspected – or unrecognized- causes of hearing loss.
It probably comes as no surprise that sustained loud music can damage your hearing. However, because music is both enjoyable and personal, it’s especially challenging to teach people to recognize unhealthy volume levels. The profusion of mp3 players and personal audio devices puts the tools of hearing damage in the users hands, with headphones and earbuds able to channel dangerous decibel levels directly into the ear. Loud music is the hard lesson for many people to face – that even something that seems so pleasurable can be the root of serious future consequences.
Anemia and Other Blood Conditions
Researchers and doctors are increasingly finding connections between the health of our blood and the health of our ears. While at first it may seem arbitrary, science is pointing to the dramatic impact even subtle imbalances can have on the finely calibrated parts of our inner ear. Decreased oxygen in anemic blood can starve the capillaries in the inner ear’s hair cells, effectively strangling them. Diabetes, high blood pressure and even the effects of a high fever pose similar threats to the mismanaging the way blood nourishes the ear, damaging its delicate and vital components.
Trains, Planes and Automobiles
A daily commute can be a drag or go by in a blur. Whatever it is, it’s likely that it happens so often we don’t recognize the noise it exposes our ears to. Clattering subway cars or wind pummeling into an open car window bombard our inner ear with decibels. Being exposed to heavy noise day in and day out has serious repercussions on our hearing “down the road”. Make it a habit to bring earplugs or noise cancelling headphones when you are traveling as a passenger. If you’re driving, minimize noise by keeping windows closed. Pro tip: loud music still causes hearing damage and loss, so don’t try to block out a loud commute with equally damaging (though maybe better sounding) loud music!
A variety of medicines can result in hearing loss, from frequent high doses of pain relievers like ibuprofen, to effective antibiotics like neomycin, to life-saving chemotherapy treatment. Depending on your medical need, you can assess the risks and benefits of the medication you take with your doctor. Always take medication in the dose and regimen your doctor has prescribed. If hearing loss is a possible side effect of a medication you are on, ask your physician to help you monitor your hearing ability.
What price, fashion? Your daily hair routine may be exposing you to unhealthy levels of noise, pointed directly into your ear. Most blow dryers assault the ear with at least 85 decibels of sound. Louder, more heavy-duty blow drying can hit noise levels that are dangerous even in small increments, with 85 decibels being the threshold that OSHA recognizes for hearing protection in workplace safety. Like loud music, it can be hard to break from using a hair dryer because of pleasure a good hair day can bring us, but its important to recognize the risk and modify behavior. If you use a hair dryer, take breaks from the noise every 5 minutes and direct the dryer’s noise away from your ear canal, whenever possible.
We’re Here When You Need Us
At Arizona Balance and Hearing Aids, we’re here to help you hear! If you have any questions about your hearing, or if it’s time to set up a hearing exam, contact our team today.