\Hearing loss occurs when one or more parts of the ear and/or the parts of the brain that make up the hearing pathway do not function normally. The causes of hearing loss come in many forms and can have multiple causes with each individual having a unique type of hearing loss.
An estimated 48 million Americans have some level of hearing loss. The impact on the ability to hear sounds, known as audiometric hearing loss can, can range from being mild to profound. Hearing loss can be a condition that exists at birth or develops later in life, may occur suddenly or gradually over many years. It’s important to know if you have a hearing loss, as it can reduce your ability to learn, listen, and talk with family, friends and workmates.
Types of Hearing Loss
“Most cases of hearing loss are due to age or exposure to very loud noises”, says Felipe Santos, M.D an assistant professor of otolaryngology at the Harvard Medical School. While this is true there are other surprising causes of hearing loss to look out for. “With some less-common causes, patients ignore their symptoms, thinking they’re going to resolve themselves,” says Santos. “Often we miss opportunities for treatment, or the outcome could’ve been better if they had been evaluated sooner.”
Below are, some unexpected conditions, behaviors, and medications associated with damaged hearing. The good news is, once you know what may damage your hearing, you can take the initiative to avoid them.
Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol and generic), ibuprofen (Advil and generic), and aspirin may seem harmless, but they have been linked to an increased risk of hearing loss or tinnitus (ringing in the ears) when taken at high doses or for long periods. Stronger pain relievers like Hydrocodone/acetaminophen (Vicodin and generic) or quinines, used to treat malaria, also carry hearing risks.
Other life-saving drugs can directly damage hearing, often permanently. These include aminoglycoside antibiotics. These were among the first antibiotics developed, but now are reserved only for very serious infections. The chemotherapy drug cisplatin can also impact your hearing.
It is important to stress that you should follow your primary care provider’s instructions with medications. However, if you’ve noticed changes in your hearing, speak to your doctor about your medications so you can protect your hearing health.
A viral or bacterial infection can suddenly sabotage your ability to hear. That damage can be permanent if you don’t get treated quickly. Ear infections are the most common affliction to your ears but upper respiratory tract infections, such as colds, can also cause abrupt damage. Make sure to see a doctor if you notice a sudden loss of hearing. Prompt treatment with steroids can minimize your risk of permanent damage, Santos says.
Often a hearing problem may be due to something as simple as a blockage, such as impacted earwax. This is especially common in people who wear hearing aids. Cleaning your ears with cotton swabs can push wax further into your ear.
If you notice your hearing worsening and if your ears feel itchy, full, or stuffed, see your doctor. An experienced specialist can irrigate the earwax with hydrogen peroxide, soften it with mineral oil, or remove it with specialized tools.
Hearing loss is twice as common among people with diabetes as among those without it. “Small blood vessels that supply the inner ear can be affected in conditions like diabetes,” Santos says. Osteoporosis—which may damage tiny bones inside the ear—as well as high blood pressure and cholesterol have all been linked to an increase of hearing loss.
An Unhealthy Lifestyle
A recent study in Japan found that cigarette smokers were about one and a half times as likely as nonsmokers to develop high-frequency hearing loss, which can make understanding higher pitch voices difficult. Many doctors suggest that other lifestyle factors, such as a lack of exercise, might also increase the risk.
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If you’ve noticed changes in your hearing, don’t delay! If you do suspect that you are suffering from hearing loss, make sure you schedule an appointment with us at Audibel today!