Are you at higher risk for hearing loss? You may avoid noisy environments, use hearing protection whenever you can and maybe even get a hearing evaluation every once in a while knowing that aging itself can cause hearing loss, but you could still be at higher risk than you realize thanks to these surprising risk factors for hearing loss.
Diabetes: While the exact reason is still unclear, studies indicate that people with diabetes are almost twice as likely to have hearing loss, and those with prediabetes are 30 percent more likely to have hearing loss. Hearing health professionals believe that, like many other risk factors, the hearing loss, in this case, may be related to impaired blood flow. Catherine Cowie, Ph.D., of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases stated in a press release on the topic, “Hearing loss may be an under-recognized complication of diabetes. As diabetes becomes more common, the disease may become a more significant contributor to hearing loss.”
Smoking: Millions of Americans smoke and every time they light up or vape, they put themselves at higher risk of developing hearing loss thanks to the chemical cocktail they’re inhaling. Experts believe that these chemicals can not only damage the inner ear directly but also impact blood flow which in turn can damage the inner ear. Multiple studies over recent years have now linked smoking to increased risk of hearing loss including this one of over 50,000 people and this review of 15 studies.
Drinking: Do you enjoy a drink or two or more regularly? You may be increasing your risk of hearing loss with too much alcohol according to more than one study. Not only can alcohol affect our hearing in the short term, leaving us less affected by hearing loud damaging noise than we usually would be. Over time, it can also cause damage to parts of the brain that are crucial to hearing.
Stress: Yes, even chronic stress may increase the risk of hearing loss and tinnitus. While findings are still very preliminary and more research is needed, it is believed that the effects that stress has on the body, specifically the nervous system may over-activate parts of the brain that in turn trigger ringing in the ears and sudden hearing loss and even decrease oxygen and blood flow to the inner ear.
Iron deficiency: Millions of people around the world are affected by iron deficiency. It can result in a variety of symptoms, but it may also be a risk factor for hearing loss. According to one recent study, iron deficiency anemia could almost double your risk of developing hearing loss.
Use of certain antibiotics and medication: If you frequently use ibuprofen, aspirin or other common pain relievers or can list more than one antibiotic that you’ve taken over the years, you may be at higher risk of hearing loss. These ototoxic medications may seem harmless but can damage the tissue of the inner ear leading to hearing loss. Consider discussing dosage and other alternatives with your physician if you believe you’re at risk.
Childhood ear infections: Ear infections can be a common part of childhood thanks to the way our ears development. In most cases, they’re nothing more than uncomfortable requiring time or a dose of antibiotics to resolve. For some children, though, they are chronic and can cause damage to vital parts of the inner ear. Unfortunately, this damage in childhood can put you at higher risk of hearing loss even years down the road.
Many factors can affect your hearing health. Knowing your risk and taking steps to reduce it through overall wellness, healthy habits, and regular hearing evaluations can protect your hearing and help prevent hearing loss in the future.