Despite the increasing prevalence of hearing loss, ear health is among the most ignored components of healthy living. Regardless of the cause, hearing loss affects your ability to hear clearly. Hearing loss naturally occurs with advancing age, as hearing health declines gradually for adults aged 40 and above.
Apart from age, noise is the other common cause of hearing loss. Constant exposure to loud noise significantly affects your hearing ability in the long term, especially if you don’t have protective earplugs. HearCanada has some of the best custom earplugs you should consider. Age and noise aside, below are surprising factors that cause declining hearing health and hearing loss.
Many people have drug-induced hearing loss due to the ototoxic features of various prescription medicines. While the mechanism behind hearing loss is unclear, the severity of hearing loss varies. Some may have mild hearing problems, while others experience severe difficulty in hearing depending on drug choice, dosage, and length of use.
Hearing loss caused by drug use can also be temporary or permanent and occurs gradually or suddenly. Some drugs cause unilateral or bilateral hearing loss with fluctuating severity. Risk factors that increase predisposition to drug-induced hearing loss include:
- Patient’s age
- Reduced drug elimination from the body, especially in patients with kidney problems
- High dosage, typically occurs due to the coadministration of two ototoxic drugs.
Common drugs with ototoxic side effects include NSAIDs, aspirin, loop diuretics, and some antibiotics. Patients on these drugs should inform their doctors promptly if they start experiencing balance and hearing problems.
2. Ear infection
Ear infections can also cause hearing complications and resultant hearing loss, especially among children. Ear infections affecting the inner, middle, and external ear can cause temporary conductive hearing loss that resolves with the infection.
- Inner ear infections – Infections of the inner ear are rare but dangerous to your ear health. These infections occur when viruses infect the fluid in the inner ear, causing sudden hearing loss.
- Middle ear infections – These infections occur due to the accumulation of fluid in the middle ear and cause temporary conductive hearing difficulties.
- External ear infections – Most external ear infections result from bacterial growth in the ear canal, the use of a cotton swab, and other triggers that traumatize the skin of the ear canal. These infections are associated with swelling, pain, and drainage, which affects hearing ability. Fortunately, the resultant transient hearing loss usually resolves once the infection is cured.
Like drug-induced hearing loss, hearing difficulties caused by ear infections are temporary. In rare cases, hearing loss caused by ear infections can cause eardrum rupture, scarring, and thickening of the middle ear, which affect hearing in the long term.
3. Excessive earwax accumulation
Ear wax buildup is among the common causes of conductive hearing loss. Earwax is produced naturally in the body for various functions. However, in some cases, the body produces excess amounts due to stress, hygiene, and diet changes. Picking out ear wax regularly also prompts the body to produce more.
The excess wax can dry and harden in the ear canal, causing impaction. Impacted ear wax causes several issues, including ear aches, infections, and hearing loss. Earwax impaction blocks sound waves from reaching the inner ear, resulting in conductive hearing loss. If left untreated, impacted ear wax causes permanent hearing loss.
Living with stress is increasingly becoming a norm in the current fast-paced world. Chronic stress has been linked to various health issues, including hypertension, diabetes, sleep difficulties, and hearing loss. The body’s natural response to stress is to increase the production of adrenaline.
While this response helps regulate stress levels, increased production of adrenaline reduces the blood flow to the ear. The inner ear is made up of fragile hair cells, which rely on constant blood flow for optimal functioning. Impaired blood flow causes temporary or permanent damage to the fragile hair cells, causing hearing loss.
5. Poor diet
The importance of nutrition to healthy living is widely known. Special diets formulated for people with high blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol levels, are also popular. However, very few people know how diet affects the auditory system. The following foods can affect your hearing health:
- Trans and saturated fats – They form arterial plaques that impair blood supply to various body organs, including the ear.
- Dairy products, meat, and fried foods – These foods increase cholesterol levels, which form plaques that impede blood flow and affect hearing.
- Caffeine – Drinking tea, coffee, and energy drinks in excess causes and exacerbates tinnitus and hearing difficulties.
- Processed sugars and carbohydrates – They increase glucose and insulin levels in the blood, which cause tinnitus and hearing loss.
Obesity, excessive physical activity, diabetes, smoking, and allergies can also cause hearing loss. Fortunately, most of these causative factors are preventable and avoidable. Taking a proactive approach of embracing a healthy lifestyle and visiting an audiologist for regular checkups optimizes your hearing health.