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Five habits that are harming your hearing health

Looking for another reason to break all of those bad health habits you’ve been accumulating? Your hearing health may suffer if you don’t. 

Smoking
You’ve heard that smoking is bad for your heart health, but did you know it also adversely affects your hearing? The chemicals emitted by smoking cigarettes affect the inner ear’s ability to transmit vibrations. 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.

Obesity
There’s a better reason for taking a few laps around the block after dinner each night besides the money you’ll save not having to buy a new wardrobe. Being overweight puts a big strain on your heart and it’s detrimental to your circulatory system. Being overweight also puts you at risk for developing diabetes, a disease which is known for destroying small blood vessels – just like the kind in your inner ear that count on good blood flow to keep them healthy.

Drinking
While health experts agree that a daily glass of red wine is healthy for your heart, a lifetime of over-indulging can destroy more than your liver. Health experts believe that alcohol may interfere with the brain’s ability to interpret sound, especially those 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 those individuals who drink excessively.

Skipping your yearly physical
Even though most people develop presbycusis, or age-related hearing loss, sometimes there’s another reason you’re not hearing as well. An annual physical can help determine whether your hearing loss is related to an obstruction in the ear or other health problem that, once addressed, can restore your hearing or prevent further damage.

Not seeing the dentist
It seems funny 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.

So, stop smoking, drink in moderation, watch your weight, schedule an annual physical and don’t skip out on the dentist. The hearing you save may be your own.

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