Is some deafness avoidable? Hearing loss is usually accepted as an unavoidable side effect of aging, but new research suggests that lifestyle has a greater influence than previously thought.
According to the largest study on age-related hearing impairment done so far, the recipe for keen ears well into the senior years may be simple: stop smoking, stay slim, and have an alcoholic drink at least once a week [Link between hearing loss and tobacco smoke].
Our take-home message is that hearing loss up to a certain degree is preventable. Environmental factors are responsible for about 50% [of age-related deafness] and we now know which ones to avoid,” says Erik Fransen at the University of Antwerp in Belgium.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, noise exposure, known to destroy the sound-transducing hair cells in the inner ear, was the biggest risk. More surprising is the apparent effect of smoking and overeating [Treating hearing loss].
These factors have been suspected as potential causes of deafness, but it has been hard to separate them from the effects of cardiovascular diseases that are also frequently suffered by people who smoke and overeat. This study has been able to do just that.
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