The top 4 habits to break in 2015
If you’re among the 38 percent of Americans who absolutely never make New Year’s resolutions, at least consider this; resolving to break these four habits in 2015 will not only improve your overall health, they’ll help your hearing, too.
Here’s an additional incentive for those of you who have been trying to quit for awhile now: smoking not only contributes to heart disease, cancer and respiratory problems, it also harms your hearing. Medical research confirms that smokers are 70 percent more likely than non-smokers to suffer hearing loss.
Smoking produces nicotine and carbon monoxide, which deplete oxygen levels and constricts blood vessels all over the body. That’s important to the health of the inner ear which relies on healthy blood flow. Smoking also irritates the Eustachian tubes and lining of the middle ear. Some health experts believe that nicotine interferes with neurotransmitters on the auditory nerve responsible for communicating with the brain and can also cause tinnitus. More information about smoking and hearing loss is available here.
Quitting isn’t easy, but the health benefits are immediate. Not only does blood pressure decrease and circulation improve 20 minutes after your last cigarette, your carbon monoxide and oxygen levels return to normal within 48 hours. The American Lung Association offers Freedom From Smoking, a smoking cessation program, to help you quit. The basic program is offered free of charge.
Did you know that excessive drinking can actually shrink your brain? That’s a scary thought – and here’s another; if you drink to excess, your hearing health is at risk, too.
Alcohol creates a toxic environment in your inner ear, damaging the delicate hair cells of the inner ear responsible for detecting sound. Research indicates those with a history of heavy drinking are more susceptible to hearing loss, although even moderate drinkers risk harming their hearing health.
That risk may be compounded depending upon where you drink. Those who routinely imbibe at the neighborhood bar and grill expose themselves to unhealthy noise levels and, depending upon the smoking ordinances, the effects second-hand smoke has on the auditory system. You can read more about alcohol and hearing loss here.
So what’s the good news? Although damage to the inner ear isn’t reversible, you can prevent further damage by limiting your alcohol intake. If you drink too much and need help quitting, consider visiting an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in your community. There are no age or education requirements. Membership is open to anyone who has the desire to quit drinking and meetings are free.
Excess weight and poor diet
If you’ve been thinking about trying to lose a few pounds, it might help to know that your heart, circulatory system and hearing health will benefit if you do. When our bodies carry extra weight, our circulatory system has a tough time doing its job. That’s bad news for our inner ear, which as we already know, relies on healthy blood flow to keep hair cells healthy. Once those hair cells are damaged or die, they cannot be regenerated and our hearing health suffers. You can read more about the relationship between obesity and hearing loss here.
If you’re having trouble losing weight and want some help, talk to your family doctor. He or she will be able to recommend the exercise and diet appropriate for your age and body type.
Hearing health experts have also identified a variety of vitamins and minerals which boost hearing health. As always, check with your doctor before adding these to your diet:
- Vitamin C is considered an antioxidant and helpful in protecting hair cells and preventing noise-induced hearing loss.
- Vitamin E also has antioxidant properties and improves circulation.
- Vitamin D is good for bone health, which is good news for the tiny bones in your inner ear.
- Vitamin B-12 may help prevent noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus.
Potassium regulates the amount of fluid in your blood and body tissue, which includes the fluid of our inner ear
Folic acid helps our bodies generate new cell growth
Magnesium combats the effects of free radicals, which may protect us from noise-induced hearing loss
Zinc boosts the body’s immune system, which may help ward off those pesky ear infections.
Foods rich in these vitamins include: citrus fruit (Vitamin C); almonds, sunflower oil and peanut butter (Vitamin E); fish and milk (Vitamin D); and sunflower seeds, almonds and spinach (Vitamin B-12). Read more about the benefits of vitamins on your hearing health here.
Foods rich in these minerals include: potatoes, spinach, lima beans and tomatoes (Potassium); broccoli, asparagus and liver (Folic acid); bananas and artichokes (Magnesium); and beef, chicken, almonds and dark chocolate (Zinc). Read more about minerals that boost your hearing here.
If you have trouble getting a good night’s sleep, 2015 might be the year to find out why. The list of consequences associated with lack of sleep include decreased performance and alertness, memory and cognitive impairment, stress, poor quality of life, occupational injury and automobile injury.
Lack of sleep can affect your hearing, too. Because we really hear with our brain, anytime its ability to function is compromised, so is our hearing. And, if you have sleep apnea, take note; untreated sleep apnea can lead to much bigger medical concerns, including high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack and stroke – all which are circulatory issues that can affect your hearing health.
Tackling these tough issues can be difficult – but don’t fret. According to research from the University of Scranton, individuals who make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t make resolutions. And, while it takes time and perseverance to break a bad habit, think of the better health and quality of life you’ll have when you accomplish your goal.
Of course, your road to good hearing health in 2015 wouldn’t be complete without a thorough evaluation by a hearing health professional. Search for a trusted professional in your community in Healthy Hearing’s online directory or ask your family physician for a referral.