Hearing loss is one of the most pervasive medical conditions that people experience today. Impacting nearly 48 people million, an estimated 1 in 5 people have some degree of hearing loss according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Hearing loss can be caused by a variety of factors including existing medical conditions, genetic history, environmental exposure to loud noise, and aging. In addition to these factors, recent research shows that air pollution can also contribute to the development of impaired hearing.
A major study investigating the correlation between air pollution and hearing loss was recently published in March 2020. Published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, this study was conducted by researchers with the Taiwan National Health Research Institutes. The study involved:
These findings highlight that the risk of developing hearing loss was significantly higher for people exposed to more air pollution.
The study revealed that air pollution had profound harmful effects on the auditory system. Though more research is needed to identify the specific ways in which air pollution damages hearing health, researchers involved in the study have a few suggestions. Both air pollutants in the study – carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide – can damage the cells in critical ways. These toxins can prevent the body’s blood system from adequately carrying oxygen throughout the body. This includes the inner ear which is integral to the processing of sound.
The inner ear is composed of the cochlea which is filled with thousands of hair cells and fluid which help translate incoming soundwaves into electrical signals. Auditory pathways then carry these signals to the brain where they are further processed and assigned meaning to; allowing us to understand what we hear. Inadequate oxygen levels in the ear can damage these cells, reducing their capacity to effectively function. This makes it difficult then for the brain to process incoming sound information, resulting in permanent hearing loss.
Air pollution can be detrimental to hearing health. You can intervene to reduce the impact air pollution has on your health by integrating safety measures in your daily life. A few useful tips include the following:
If you are ready to get your hearing tested, contact us today!