Is your lifestyle harming your hearing – or someone else’s?

If you smoke, drink too much or are overweight, you’re at risk of developing hearing loss. And if you smoke around others, particularly children, you could be harming their hearing, too…

There are many health benefits to not smoking, drinking in moderation and maintaining a healthy weight. But did you know those lifestyle choices can also impact on your likelihood of developing hearing loss?

Although ageing and exposure to loud noises are the leading causes of hearing loss, lifestyle factors are increasingly recognised as having an impact. And where smoking is concerned, it may not only be your own hearing that you’re damaging.

Smoking and hearing loss

ScienceDaily reports on a 2014 study carried out by the University of Manchester in the UK. Researchers looked at 164,770 UK adults aged 40 to 69 who took hearing tests between 2007 and 2010. It found that smokers were 15.1 per cent more likely to have hearing loss than non-smokers.

‘Given around 20 per cent of the UK population smoke and up to 60 per cent in some countries, smoking may represent a significant cause of hearing loss worldwide,’ said study leader Dr Piers Dawes from the Centre for Human Communication and Deafness.

Worryingly, the researchers think the link between smoking and hearing loss may even be underestimated.

Passive smoking and hearing loss

The same study also found that passive smoking increased the likelihood of hearing loss by 28 per cent. These findings back up an earlier Egyptian study into the effect of passive smoking on children. It found that passive smoking in childhood is linked to sensorineural hearing loss (one of the two main types of hearing loss).

Alcohol and hearing loss reports that German researchers have found a link between alcohol and hearing loss. The findings suggest that drinking a lot of alcohol over a long period of time can result in damage to the part of the brain that processes sound.

The researchers also found that alcoholics may have damage in their inner ears due to high levels of alcohol in the bloodstream.

Being overweight and hearing loss also reports on a University of Antwerp, Belgium, study that has found a link between body weight and hearing loss. Researchers looked at over 4000 people aged 53 to 67 from seven European countries. They found that the greater someone’s body mass index, the greater their likely hearing loss.

This is thought to be because, like smoking, being overweight decreases the flow of blood and oxygen to the ear, and could cause hearing loss.

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