Everyone knows that loud noise and noise pollution can lead to hearing loss. These sounds can damage the cells in your ear and make it harder to hear. But have you ever thought about how the air you breathe might be affecting your ears? One recent study looked at exactly that. Here’s what we’ve learned about air pollution, and how air quality affects our hearing abilities.
A 2020 Study on Air Pollution
A recent Taiwanese study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health looked at how air pollution affects hearing. Using data from 74 ambient air quality monitoring stations across Taiwan, the researchers measured the annual concentrations of carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide in the air. They were able to determine which parts of the country experienced high, mid, or low levels of air pollution.
Then, they compared these areas of air pollution with results from a national 20-year health survey of over 75,500 people to see if hearing loss was linked to air pollution.
Air Pollution Can Cause Hearing Loss
The researchers found that exposure to air pollution can cause permanent sensorineural hearing loss! In areas with high air pollution, rates of hearing loss were significantly higher than in areas with low air pollution. The areas with moderate levels of air pollution also had moderately more cases of sensorineural hearing loss.
People who were exposed to high levels of nitrogen dioxide air pollution were 1.63 times more likely to have hearing loss than people in the low-level pollution area. And the hearing loss rate for high carbon monoxide regions was almost the same, with people in these regions having a 1.45 greater risk of hearing loss.
Why Does Air Pollution Affect Hearing?
More studies need to explore how air pollution damages hearing. However, it’s thought that these chemicals in the air harm the cells in your inner ear. These delicate cells are very susceptible to damage and oxygen deprivation, and the pollutants in the air can deprive the cells of the oxygen they need to be healthy.
Another reason air pollution can cause hearing loss is because air pollution is linked to higher rates of ear infections. A 2018 review of recent literature found that air pollution, particularly nitrogen dioxide pollution is associated with a higher rate of ear infections in children. Most often ear infections will pass in a few days, or can be treated with antibiotics. However, complications from ear infections can lead to permanent hearing loss.
Cleaner Air, Better Hearing
Reducing air pollution is an important step to improving the overall health and wellbeing of people around the world. Policies that protect clean air or reduce emissions can actually reduce your risk of hearing loss. This would decrease the number of ear infections, and also lead to fewer cases of sensorineural hearing loss from pollutants in the air.
Treating Hearing Loss
Have you noticed recent changes in your hearing health, either from air pollution, an ear infection, or some other cause? Living with untreated hearing loss also affects your hearing! Sensorineural hearing loss is hearing loss due to damage to cells in the inner ear. Once these cells are damaged, they stop sending signals to the brain and you lose the ability to hear certain sounds.
However, that’s not all that happens. After some time, the auditory regions of your brain start to die from lack of use, or they may even get repurposed for some other system, like your sense of smell or touch. Treating hearing loss early will help you hear all the sounds around you and keep the auditory centers in your brain focused on hearing. This reduces your risk of further hearing loss.
Schedule a Hearing Test
The first step is to learn more about your hearing health. Schedule a hearing test with us and discover exactly what sounds you hear clearly, and what sounds you can’t hear anymore. This test will show you if you need to get hearing aids, or if you have normal hearing. If you have hearing loss, explore your hearing aid options! We work with the world’s best hearing aid manufacturers to bring you incredible hearing devices. Find your perfect match today and fall in love with clear hearing.