Most of us associate hearing loss with retired folks or our grandparents. It has to be a  problem we’ll deal with when we get old.  Attention has recently been focused on hearing loss in young people associated with wearing ear buds and listening to loud music with an iPod or MP3 player.  Loud music pounding against the tympanic membrane from a distance of just a few millimeters is certainly going to accelerate the progression of hearing loss.

You may believe you’re safe if you’re not one to listen to music using ear buds but research has shown that there are many other factors that affect your hearing.  Listen to this! According to the National Academy on the Aging Society nearly one out of four people who suffer from some degree of hearing loss are between the ages of 18 and 44.  That is a shocking statistic.  Image the reaction if the same percentage was attributed to another disease.

Here are a few of the surprising contributors to hearing loss unrelated to age.

  1. Allergies – Some people notice that their hearing seems to digress during the spring or fall.  Douglas D.  Backous M.D., medical director at the Center for Hearing and Skull Base Surgery at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle states that swelling or increased wax accumulation associated with high pollen levels can be the cause of decreased hearing.  Using decongestants or antihistamines helps alleviate these symptoms.  In these cases, a drop in hearing levels should theoretically be temporary.
  2. OTC Pain Medication – A study in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that women who took acetaminophen or ibuprofen two or more days a week had an increased risk of hearing loss.  Aspirin and some other pain relievers are vasoconstrictors – restricting blood flow to the cochlea nerve. Research also shows that taking higher doses of aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug painkillers can cause tinnitus – ringing in the ears.
  3. High Blood Sugar – A diagnosis of diabetes under the age of 60 increases the risk of hearing loss by 2.6 times.  High levels of glucose are known to damage the eyes and kidneys.  It is suspected that these increases may also affect blood vessels in the inner ear where the cochlea nerve is located.

Americans with pre-diabetes, numbering 79 million have higher rates of hearing problems. If you notice the need for increasing the volume on your TV or iPod it’s a good idea to ask your doctor about getting a blood sugar test as well as a hearing test.

  1.  Smoking – Tobacco smoke as well as secondhand smoke irritates the Eustachian tube and the lining of the middle ear.  This irritation can eventually contribute to hearing loss.  This type of hearing loss can be more gradual and is most likely noticed first by friends or family members.  Some damage may be permanent but quitting the habit and avoiding situations with secondhand smoke can prevent further decline in your hearing.
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