The 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.
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.