It is pretty common knowledge that exposure to loud noise in an urban or industrial environment can cause hearing loss. A little bit of noise every now and then won’t make a big difference but if you live near a factory, airport or construction zone, the cacophony of noise can build up, damaging the tiny hair cells of the inner ear. While this is an issue to consider if living near an industrial or urban zone, it is important to understand that there are more factors to consider when trying to protect your hearing. Everyone knows that loud noise and noise pollution can lead to hearing loss. Researchers are now discovering that air pollution and air quality can also have an impact on our ability to hear.
A 2020 Study on Air Pollution
A study from the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health to exploring exactly how air pollution affects hearing. The researchers collected data from 74 separate air quality monitoring stations across Taiwan, noting the concentration of dangerous air pollutants such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide in the air. Using this data, they established the regions of the country which had high, low mild and high levels of air pollution. They cross-examined these findings with health data from over 75,000 people over 20 years to determine if there were, in fact, higher concentrations of people suffering from hearing loss in these regions.
The researchers found that there were higher rates of hearing loss in areas with higher concentrations of air pollutants in comparison with areas with low air pollution. They also found that areas with moderate air pollution contained higher cases of patients with moderate hearing loss, which they determined was not a coincidence.
Why Does Air Pollution Affect Hearing?
While the researchers were not able to determine the direct cause of hearing loss associated with air pollution, they have many theories on why this is an issue. The most common theory is that air pollutants such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide can damage the tiny hair cells of the inner ear, causing permanent sensorineural hearing loss. These chemicals are ototoxic, meaning that they can damage by depriving cells of oxygen. The cells of the inner ear are incredibly fragile and can easily be damaged due to lack of oxygen.
Another theory based on a 2018 review of recent literature in which it was found that that air pollution can cause higher rates of ear infection. The study found that nitrogen dioxide pollution has been found to cause more ear infections for children. While most ear infections can be cured within a couple of days with antibiotics, if the infections become chronic or are not cleared up, they can start to cause permanent sensorineural hearing damage.
Cleaner Air, Better Hearing
How do you protect your ears from air pollution when you don’t have the option to simply move away? There are many policies across the US that seek to reduce the amount of air pollution emitted by local and national companies. Studies show that reducing air pollution results in lower hearing loss rates. Write to your local officials to let them know that you want cleaner air standards in your neighborhood. In the meantime, home air purifiers have been found to significantly decrease indoor NO2 concentrations.
Treating Hearing Loss
If you have noticed changes in your hearing recently, don’t let too much time pass before having your hearing tested. While sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible, it can be treated with the use of hearing aids. These amazing devices can amplify the sounds you struggle with so your brain can hear them again. This allows people to participate in conversations in which they previously struggled, connecting to partners, family, friends and co-workers again. The sooner you schedule a hearing test and have your hearing tested, the sooner you can start to reconnect to the people in your life that you love.
Schedule a Hearing Test
Don’t wait another day. We can help you find the best treatment for your specific hearing loss and lifestyle. There are so many innovations in hearing aid technology that makes using hearing aids, a more clear and more connective experience than ever before! Call today!