When addressing a hearing loss diagnosis, some contributing factors are widely understood and obvious to most people. Severe brain trauma, old age, or repeated exposure to loud and harmful sounds are common causes that come to mind when talking about hearing loss, but new risk factors may be responsible for hearing loss in ways you’d likely not expect. When it comes to your hearing health, life choices, separate medical diagnoses, and even recreational activities can pose potential risks that are more than meets the eye. Here are three surprising ways you could be damaging your hearing:
Vaping and E-Cigarettes
Though research has not reached a conclusive consensus, vaping has been shown to present risks similar to those that occur from smoking regular cigarettes, which has been a well-established contributor to hearing loss for quite some time. Due to the lack of federal oversight pertaining to ingredients in electronic cigarette flavoring and an increase of nicotine intake, evidence of hearing loss and vaping has become too evident to ignore.
Nicotine, an addictive substance found in most e-cigarettes, has been linked to hearing loss in studies dating back as far as 1998 by constricting blood vessels and limiting blood flow to the cochlea, damaging fragile cochlear hair cells that translate auditory vibrations into information understood by the brain as sound. Despite study after study showing the damage of nicotine to hearing and overall health, vaping has found monumental popularity with a 78% increase in teens in 2018 and over 3.7% of all adults vaping regularly.
Though some e-cigarettes boast a “nicotine-free” option, nicotine-free does not mean risk-free. Flavoring ingredients such as Propylene glycol, though not expressly researched with vaping, has been shown to be harmful to the inner ear when applied topically through ear drops.
Major health complications like liver disease, stroke, and high blood pressure are no strangers to excessive drinking, but a 2004 University of Ulm study has shown that damage to the central auditory cortex can be added to alcohol consumption’s long list of risks. Excessive alcohol consumption can be poisonous, facilitating cell death in the auditory cortex and damaging nerves in the brain, including the auditory nerve responsible for carrying electronic signals from the ear to the brain. This damage can slow processing time between the sounds your ear is hearing and the information sent to your brain, causing sounds to become unintelligible.
Erectile Dysfunction Drugs
Unfortunately, for those searching for peak performance, Viagara and other erectile dysfunction drugs have been linked to lackluster performance in another area: Hearing health. PDE-5 Inhibitors like Viagara and Cialis have been linked to sudden hearing loss by a University of Alabama at Birmingham study, finding that men taking these inhibitors were twice as likely to report hearing loss than men who did not, prompting the Food and Drug Administration to add more information to the drug’s labels. When it comes to your hearing health, being a “good listener” may be the more attractive option.