These five habits are linked to hearing loss and tinnitus
Looking for another reason to break all those bad health habits you’ve been accumulating? You probably already know to turn down the music to reduce your risk of noise-induced hearing loss—but that's not all you can do to prevent hearing loss. These five bad habits in particular are linked to hearing loss or tinnitus:
Nicotine restricts blood flow to the ears, potentially damaging delicate ear cells. 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. Smoking is also one of many risk factors known to cause tinnitus.
The same goes for vaping. E-cigarettes that contain nicotine have a similar impact on the ear's hair cells as smoking does. And the flavored fluids, or "e juices," contain hundreds of chemicals with unknown health impacts. At least one, propylene glycol, is linked to sudden hearing loss.
A lifetime of over-indulging can damage more than your liver. Health experts believe that alcohol may interfere with the brain’s ability to interpret sound, especially sounds in the lower frequencies, and create a toxic environment in the inner ear itself that is damaging to the hair cells of the cochlea, damaging how we hear. The central auditory cortex of the brain may actually shrink in people who drink excessively, meaning that the nerve that is responsible for processing sound is negatively impacted.
Ignoring hearing loss
Many people go years before seeking help for hearing loss, partly due to the stigma of wearing hearing aids. But this has long-term health impacts—when your brain isn't hearing all the noises it used to, you're at higher risk of cognitive decline, including dementia.
If you suspect you have hearing loss, schedule an appointment with a hearing care practitioner right away. A good starting place is our online directory of hearing clinics, which has thousands of verified customer reviews, sorted by the clinics that are closest to you.
Not wearing your hearing aids
Hearing aids can't work if they're sitting in your nightstand drawer. Ideally, you wear your hearing aids all day, except for the shower or while sleeping. Just as when you didn't have any hearing aids at all, not wearing them means you're still at risk of auditory deprivation, which further worsens your ability to hear.
It's normal to feel frustrated or annoyed when you're first wearing hearing aids, as your brain is not used to all the new sounds it forgot to hear, including the sound of your own voice! It takes time for your brain to adapt to this whole new hearing world—much longer than when you get new eyeglasses for vision problems, for example. These 7 tips for getting used to your hearing aids are a good starting point to help get you on your way to loving your hearing aids. Your brain and body will thank you, as hearing aids boost your overall health.