Did you know that popping a balloon can be as loud as a high-powered shotgun being fired? Researchers at Canada's University of Alberta say that firing a shell from a 12-gauge shotgun is actually a bit quieter than the bang from a balloon that's blown up until it explodes. Both, however, can cause permanent damage to your hearing.
You're probably aware of many of the obvious hazards to your hearing, including gun shots, loud music, and jet engines, but there are other common causes of hearing damage.
"There are many things that can destroy your hearing that you might not be aware of, and the damage is often permanent," Dr. Gerald McGwin, professor and vice chairman of the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health, tells Newsmax Health.
Here are eight not-so-obvious factors that can trigger temporary or even permanent hearing loss:
Smoking. Smoking can increase risk of hearing loss by 70 percent, and passive smoking can increase risk by approximately a third, according to a study from Western Michigan University. The chemicals in cigarette smoke, which include formaldehyde, arsenic, and hydrogen cyanide, can damage both the conductive mechanisms in the middle ear as well as the hair cells in the inner ear which relay sound to the brain.
Airbags. There's no doubt that airbags in vehicles save lives, but they can also damage hearing. One study found that 17 percent of people in accidents where airbags were deployed suffered permanent hearing loss. A Japanese study found that noise levels were more than 20 percent higher than those capable of causing severe, permanent hearing loss.
Diabetes. Although most people know that diabetes can cause nerve damage, especially in the feet, few realize the condition can also cause hearing loss. According to the American Diabetes Association, hearing loss is twice as common in people who have diabetes when compared to those who don't have the disorder. About 40 percent of diabetics complain of hearing loss, and it's 30 percent higher in people who have prediabetes.
Shingles. Herpes Zoster, or shingles, usually occurs in people age 60 and older, and is caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox. When the shingles virus affects the ear (a condition called Ramsay Hunt syndrome), it can cause hearing loss in the affected ear which can be severe. Prompt treatment with antiviral medications and corticosteroids can help avoid permanent loss of hearing.
Measles. Although uncommon, there have been several measles outbreaks in the United States in recent years. Ear infections are a complication in about 1 in 10 cases of measles, which can cause permanent hearing loss. Rubella can also cause deafness in unborn children.
Chemotherapy. About half of all cancer patients who receive chemotherapy are treated with platinum-based drugs such as cisplatin. A study by Oregon Health and Science University discovered that hearing loss from platinum-based drugs occurred in 61 percent of patients. "With chemotherapy, you're destroying cells throughout the body, and that can include tiny cells in the ear," says McGwin.
High blood pressure. An Indian study found a clear link between hypertension and blood pressure readings of adults aged 45 to 64. Volunteers were classified as having grade 1, grade 2, grade 3, hypertension or no hypertension. They found a mild hearing loss in 18 percent of people who didn't have hypertension, but 36.7 percent of those with grade 1 hypertension had hearing loss, 40.4 percent of those with type 2, and 54.2 percent of patients with grade 3 hypertension. Researchers theorized that high blood pressure accelerated hearing loss normally associated with aging.
Viagra. Studies have found that men who took Viagra or similar drugs were twice as likely to report hearing loss as those who had not taken such drugs. "These medications work in patients with erectile dysfunction by increasing blood flow to certain tissues in the body," said McGwin, who led a study that investigated hearing loss and ED medications.
"They may have a similar effect on sensitive tissues in the ear, where an increase of blood flow could potentially cause damage leading to hearing loss," he said. "It's a sudden-onset type of hearing loss, and it tends to be permanent."
"Always keep in mind that anything that can affect other areas of your body and destroy cells can affect your hearing," says McGwin. "You can get the function back by using hearing aids, but the hearing impairment is permanent."
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