1. An earwax blockage
Earwax, unpleasant though it may be, serves a highly useful function in the body. It protects the ears from harmful debris and bacteria, while keeping ears moisturized (which also helps to fend off infections). However, sometimes earwax does become a problem–particularly when there is too much of it. Earwax blockages can be irritating and even painful, causing muffled hearing, earaches and ringing in the ears (tinnitus). If you have an earwax blockage, don’t try to clean it clean it out with a cotton swab or other object, as this will only push the earwax deeper into your ear canal, and possibly harm your eardrum in the process. A warm shower will help the earwax to naturally move to your outer ear, where it can be wiped away with a cloth. If the blockage remains troublesome, your doctor can remove it.
2. A ruptured eardrum
One of the most common causes of a perforated eardrum is an ear infection. When pressure builds up in the ear, it pushes up against the eardrum and can cause a hole or tear in the delicate tissue that separates your ear canal from your middle ear. A perforated eardrum can also be caused by explosive noises (acoustic trauma), sudden changes in air pressure, and head and ear injuries. Side effects can include tinnitus (a ringing in the ears), hearing loss, dizziness, and sometimes fluid draining from the ear. It is imperative to see a doctor right away if you have a ruptured eardrum. In most cases, the eardrum will heal on its own, but in some cases special steps need to be taken to preserve the hearing.
3. Middle ear infections
Anyone who has had children will tell you that ear infections are very common in those first years. But they don’t just affect infants and toddlers–infections of the middle ear sometimes strike in adulthood, after bouts of the common cold or in people who suffer from allergies. When the eustachian tube–the tube that connects the ear to the throat–becomes blocked, fluid buildup can lead to infection. Ear infections have been known to cause pain, dizziness, a feeling of fullness in the ears, and hearing loss. The good news is that this type of hearing loss is usually temporary and hearing returns to normal after the infection clears up. If you are experiencing changes in your hearing or severe pain in your ears due to an ear infection, it’s best to see your doctor as antibiotics may be required.
4. Personal music players
Listening to music on a personal music device such as an iPod is convenient, enjoyable and quite natural in our modern age. The downside is that many people do not understand the risks associated with these devices, and what constitutes safe and unsafe listening habits. Earbud-style headphones place the speaker very close to the eardrum, allowing decibels to have a greater impact on the inner ear and cause more damage if the volume is too high. These headphones are not typically good at cancelling out background noise, and often people compensate by adjusting the volume to an unsafe level. Anything louder than 85 decibels is potentially harmful to the ears; as a rule, if someone at arm’s length needs to shout for you to hear them over your music, it’s too loud. Experts also recommend taking short “listening breaks” every hour, to give your ears a chance to rest.
5. Loud sporting events and concerts
Hearing loss isn’t something we often think about when heading out to a bar, concert venue, or sports game. But it should be. When sounds reach into the upper decibels, it doesn’t take long for hearing damage to occur–though we might not notice it right away. Most often, noise-induced hearing loss results from prolonged, repeated exposure rather than one single, explosive sound, so if you frequent music or sports events, be prepared for things to get noisy and pack a pair of earplugs.
6. Being overweight
Research suggests that being overweight, particularly if you carry your extra weight around your waist, also increases the chances of developing hearing loss. A 2013 study carried out by researchers at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that women with larger waists and more body fat had more trouble with their hearing than those who were of average weight. Fortunately, research also shows that exercise helps a great deal. Even walking just two hours a week, can reduce the risk of hearing loss by as much as 15 percent.
Loud persistent snoring often signals a more serious condition called sleep apnea. This start-and-stop breathing disorder has long been associated with heart disease and high blood pressure, but in 2014, a study carried out by the Albany Medical Center in New York revealed a connection between sleep apnea and an increased risk of hearing loss. If you have sleep apnea (or suspect you do), talk to your primary care physician, who may recommend a treatment or refer you a sleep specialist.
Chronic diabetes increases the likelihood of a number of health complications, affecting many different areas of the body. One of the lesser known symptoms of this disease is hearing loss. In fact, diabetes sufferers are twice as likely to develop hearing loss as those with stable blood glucose levels; for people with prediabetes, the risk of hearing loss is 30 percent higher. It is thought that diabetes damages the structures and blood vessels of the inner ear in a similar fashion to the way it damages the heart. A diet that is low in sugar and starch, and high in protein and vegetables, paired with regular exercise, is an excellent way to combat the dangerous glucose spikes of this disease.
9. Not treating your existing hearing loss
While it’s true that wearing a hearing aid won’t restore perfect hearing, evidence suggests that wearing an aid can actually help to protect the hearing you still have. In people who live with untreated hearing loss, the brain gets used to hearing in fewer frequencies, and actually loses some of its ability to process sounds. Wearing a hearing aid, on the other hand, can help to keep the brain agile and make its job of processing sounds much easier, so that it functions better in other capacities as well.
10. Over-the-counter and prescription medicines
Certain medications are known to be ototoxic, or harmful to the ears. The damage that results from these medications can be temporary or permanent, but it is often the latter. Over 200 drugs are known to cause hearing damage, including common over-the-counter pain remedies such as aspirin and ibuprofen. The risk of damage is highest for those who take these drugs in large quantities over a period of many years. Certain chemotherapy medications have also been found to increase the risk of hearing loss. If you concerned about the effect of a medication on your hearing, or have noticed changes in your hearing, speak to your doctor right away, and make sure to have your regularly hearing monitored over the course of treatment.
Visit Us at Hearing Health
Are you concerned you may be experiencing hearing loss? It’s simple to find out for sure, with a hearing test. Visit us at Hearing Health for a consultation and hearing test. Our friendly team will work with you to find a solution.