Hearing Associates Color LogoHearing Associates Accent Logo

How Your Habits Are Harming Your Hearing

Image of senior man smoking

he number of everyday habits that impact your hearing may surprise you. From smoking to cleaning your ears with cotton swabs, consider the aural effects before you put your hearing at risk.

Smoking and Vaping

It’s not just your respiratory system that suffers when you smoke. Nicotine inhibits blood flow and lowers blood-oxygen levels creating irreversible damage to the hair cells in the inner ear.

Smoking can also cause problems for your:

  • Auditory nerve: Located in the inner ear, the nerve is a neurotransmitter that tells your brain what sounds you hear
  • Eustachian tube: A canal that connects the middle ear to the throat and helps equalize ear pressure
  • Throat and nose tissue: Smoking leaves tissues more susceptible to infections that can spread to your ears


When you consume excessive amounts of alcohol you risk ototoxicity – a toxic environment that can damage the inner ear and auditory nerve. Like smoking, drinking also damages the delicate hair cells in your ears.

Drinking adversely affects the part of your brain that processes sound even if the ears are unharmed. The central auditory cortex is the nerve in the brain that interprets sound and overindulging in drinking can shrink it. The ability to hear low-frequency sounds like speech also fall to the wayside after extended periods of drinking.

Neglecting Oral Hygiene

The ears, mouth, and throat are closely connected, so if you’re not practicing good oral hygiene your ears will suffer.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Regularly brushing your teeth eliminates bacteria in the mouth that can lead to infections
  • Colds and other respiratory illnesses often lead to ear infections due to the Eustachian tube connecting the ear and upper area of the throat
  • Bacteria can cause inflammation and narrow the arteries, stemming blood flow to the ears

Disregarding Hearing Loss

Constantly asking people to repeat themselves isn’t the only problem you will face if you neglect your hearing health. Ignoring symptoms means your brain isn’t hearing all the sounds it can, and your cognitive functions will begin to deteriorate.

Decreased cognitive function, especially as you age, places you at a greater risk for dementia and depression. Visit your audiologist and get tested early on to monitor your hearing.

Cotton Swabs

Sticking anything in your ear is risky and cotton swabs are no different. You may think earwax means your ears are dirty, but your body produces it to keep debris out and protect the sensitive ear canal.

If you use cotton swabs, you may:

  • Push earwax further into your ear canal
  • Perforate your eardrum
  • Create abrasions that can cause blood clots in your ear

Audiologists are trained to safely remove excessive earwax, so leave ear cleaning to the experts.

If you experience hearing loss, contact Hearing Associates to learn about our services and how we can help you kick the habits that affect your hearing.