We all know loud noise and even growing older can contribute to hearing loss, but there are many factors you can modify now that can help protect your hearing for the future. You wouldn’t think it, but lowering your blood pressure, and quitting smoking today can make a big impact on your hearing health.
Cigarettes and Your Ears
If you smoke cigarettes, you are either overrun by public health announcements about the risk of smoking or you are simply burying your head in the sand. Smoking has a wide-reaching impact on your total health including cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis. Smoking also increases your risk of developing dangerous conditions such as tuberculosis, some eye diseases, a weakened immune system, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Now, researchers are linking smoking cigarettes to a higher risk of hearing loss. Current research shows that for those who smoke regularly, the risk of hearing loss is 60 percent higher than for those who don’t smoke – and even if you live with a smoker you are still at risk. Studies have demonstrated that damage from secondhand smoke occurs in as little as five minutes: in which arteries become less flexible, similarly to those who are smoking!
How Smoking Affects Your Hearing
We hear via tiny hair-like cells called stereocilia which transform audio waves into electrical pulses and send them to the brain. Without stereocilia, we cannot receive these sounds and like all the cells throughout our body, they rely on a healthy supply of oxygenated blood to maintain their vitality.
The addictive chemical nicotine is an ototoxic chemical. When your body absorbs nicotine, it lowers your blood oxygen levels, so your blood isn’t carrying as much oxygen to cells in your body. It’s less likely that oxygenated blood will reach your extremities such as your ears. If you’re a smoker, you could be damaging your ears through oxygen deprivation. When these cells don’t get the oxygen they need, they can be damaged or even die, causing permanent hearing loss!
Blood Pressure and Your Ears
Aside from all of these negative health effects caused by smoking, it can also cause an acute increase in blood pressure (BP) and heart rate causing malignant hypertension. It’s estimated that 45% of all people in the US suffer from hypertension, also known as high blood pressure. When your blood pressure is consistently higher, it puts a lot of stress and pressure on your arteries. This means that your heart also has to work harder to pump blood throughout your body, including the ears. Hypertension can not only increase your risk of a heart attack or stroke but can damage your hearing by adding pressure which damages the stereocilia.
Quitting Smoking to Support Healthy Hearing
Many people don’t think of it this way but one way to protect your hearing is to quit smoking. Smoking is devastating to a wide range of functions throughout the body but as you quit, the body can recover quite quickly. Just a few hours after your last cigarette, your blood pressure starts to restabilize, and even after an hour, your blood oxygen levels will start to improve. Furthermore, it just takes a few hours for your blood oxygen levels to appear nearly normal and in a few days after your last cigarette it’s common for your sense of taste and smell to return, along with increased energy levels. It’s amazing just how much this one lifestyle change can have for your entire health!!!
Lowering Blood Pressure to Support Healthy Hearing
Maintain healthy blood pressure and help protect your hearing by quitting smoking today. However, there are other health modifications you can do to help maintain healthy blood pressure including:
- Exercising regularly
- Eating a healthy diet full of vegetables, fruits, and lean proteins while avoiding fat and processed sugar
- Lowering salt intake
- Reducing the stress in your life
Treating Hearing Loss
If you do have hearing loss, it’s most likely irreversible. However, it can be treated by using hearing aids, programmed, based on your hearing exam, to amplify only the sounds you struggle to hear. The first step is scheduling a hearing exam with us today!