Aging is, by far, the most common cause of hearing loss among the 48 million affected Americans. Most of us know an older adult wearing, or in need of, hearing aids but did you know that some everyday occurrences can impact your hearing at any age? Here are 10 unusual causes of hearing loss you need to know about:
Chemotherapy – The term Ototoxicity (ear poisoning) refers to drug or chemical-related damage to the inner ear. Cisplatin and Carboplatin are the two most common chemotherapy drugs associated with an increased risk of hearing problems in cancer patients, according to multiple sources.
Poor Diet – Free radicals affect the whole aging body, but are especially damaging to the very delicate inner ear structures consisting of the ear drum, the cochlea and the three smallest bones in the entire human body (the malleus, incus and stapes). Dietary recommendations for ear health focus on cutting sugars and fats, increasing vitamin B12 intake, and reducing overall caloric consumption by 10% every day.
Common Noises – Standard decibel exposure level recommendations allow for no more than 15 minutes of exposure to a 100-decibel sound, like an ambulance siren. That’s obvious and most of us will not be exposed to such loud noises without protection for extended periods. Where it gets more unusual is with our long-term exposure to decibel levels in the 80 – 90 decibel range. A vacuum is 80 decibels and that noisy office we’re in for eight hours a day? 90 decibels.
Measles – There is a one in ten chance of a child with Measles developing an ear infection which may lead to permanent hearing problems.
Smoking – Formaldehyde, hydrogen cyanide, and arsenic are in cigarette smoke and can damage the middle ear and the hair cells of the inner ear. The hair cells cannot regenerate so any damage is permanent and will result in hearing impairment.
Diabetes – When blood sugar is not controlled it wreaks havoc on all blood vessels, but the tiny blood vessels in the ear are more susceptible to the damage. The American Diabetes Foundation found that 40% of people with diabetes also suffer from hearing deficiencies.
Hypertension – Increased pressure in the vascular system, commonly known as high blood pressure, can cause inner ear hemorrhage. Studies have also linked sudden hearing loss with a 150% increase in the chance of having a stroke in the next two years.
Airbags – The noise from a deployed driver’s side airbag will reach around 170 decibels. Research tells us that our pain threshold is 140 decibels. Just one exposure to higher levels may cause permanent hearing impairment.
Shingles – The Shingles virus often occurs in people over the age of 60 and can result in two conditions which may cause temporary or permanent hearing loss. Ramsay Hunt Syndrome occurs when the virus affects the facial nerve near an ear. Labyrinthitis is an inflammation of the inner ear caused either directly by the Shingles virus or by a bacterial infection that can occur as the Shingles blisters heal.
Ear Buds – Ok, this one is obvious but what’s unusual is the alarming rise in hearing impairment for a much younger population. Hearing loss among today’s teens is 30% higher than it was in the 1980s. In fact, the World Health Organization warned that 1.1 BILLION young people are at risk of hearing problems due to noise exposure from ear buds and concerts.
So, show your ears and all its teeny-tiny parts some love and schedule a hearing consultation with your ear doctor.