About one in five residents of Bellevue has hearing loss. Many can blame the usual suspects: advancing age, noise exposure or trauma. But there are other factors that can lead to hearing loss in Washington – and some of them are bound to surprise you.
Unexpected Causes of Hearing Impairment
According to your Bellevue audiologist, the following factors – while less common – can contribute to hearing loss.
- Sleep Apnea. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by relaxed tissue in the throat that blocks the airway, causing loud snoring and pauses in breathing that occur during sleep. This leads to a drop in oxygen levels and increases the chances of developing a number of serious health problems including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and hearing loss, the latter the result of reduced blood flow to the inner ear. The chronic snoring that accompanies sleep apnea can also contribute to irreversible damage of the hair cells in the cochlea that transmit sounds to the brain.
- Excessive alcohol consumption. An occasional beer during a weekend barbecue is harmless enough, but when a couple of drinks turn into many, problems occur. Excess alcohol consumption increases your risk for many serious health problems such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension and stroke. Too much alcohol also negatively affects your hearing when it damages the central auditory cortex of the brain, making it work harder to process and interpret sounds and affecting your ability to distinguish low-frequency noises. In addition, alcohol impedes balance, making you more prone to falling and suffering an injury.
- Iron deficiency. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found a correlation between iron-deficient anemia and hearing loss while examining the medical records of more than 305,000 adults. Patients suffering from this blood disorder had double the risk of developing hearing loss compared to people without an iron deficiency. This illustrates the mineral’s importance in furnishing the hair cells of the cochlea with a healthy blood supply.
- Mumps. Mumps cases are on the rise despite the decades-long availability of a vaccine. “Anti-vaxxers” opposed to immunizations are the reason behind the recent large jump in mumps cases across the U.S. People who contract the disease are susceptible to a number of serious health complications, including hearing loss. While it’s a fairly rare side effect of the disease (between one and four percent of people with mumps will develop hearing problems), it’s not worth the risk considering the safety and efficacy of a vaccine that has been protecting children from the virus since the 1960s. Check with your Bellevue health professional for an immunization schedule for your child.
- Stress. Chronic stress diverts oxygen to your muscles, preparing you to react quickly to imminent danger. The problem is, there is rarely an actual threat to your person, so the oxygen being redirected to your muscles from other key areas – such as the blood supply that feeds the inner ears – is doing much more harm than good. Over time, you may experience permanent damage to the hair cells of your cochlea, resulting in hearing loss.
- Vaping. Vaping is seen as a healthier alternative to smoking by many, but the ingredients in e-cigarettes can cause damage, too. Nicotine restricts blood flow to the inner ear, depriving the hair cells of oxygen, and propylene glycol is an alcohol-based solvent that can damage hearing when used topically.
- Erectile dysfunction drugs. Erectile dysfunction drugs such as Viagra, Cialis and Levitra contain PDE-5 inhibitors that improve blood flow. Though uncommon, one possible side effect is sudden sensorineural hearing loss, a condition that develops with little or no advance warning. EDs and some 200 other medications are considered ototoxic, meaning they can cause temporary or permanent hearing loss or tinnitus. Check with your doctor if you observe changes to your hearing soon after starting a new drug regimen.
Hearing loss as a side effect from any of the above is pretty uncommon but being informed can make the difference between successful early treatment and permanent impairment. For more information on factors that can cause hearing loss in Bellevue, contact your audiologist today.
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Bellevue ENT Office Location
1800 116th Ave NE, #103
Bellevue, WA 98004