We love our fossil fuels to a fault. It’s amazing what they do for us by keeping the lights on, keeping us warm in the winter and cool when it’s hot. They fuel our cars and trucks making the whole world more connected than ever before; however, they make a big impact on the quality of our air. Like most living creatures, we need air to breathe and survive and thrive. However, air pollution continues to get worse as our hunger for industry from jet planes, trucking, and more things powered everywhere seems insatiable. It seems there is no end, as the globe warms causing us to experience unprecedented weather and our air quality continues to become more and more toxic. In fact, if things don’t change, some predict that by 2030 the air will be toxic enough that it will require most of us to wear a mask to breathe easily.

Around the world, nine out of 10 people breathe unhealthy air, making air pollution the biggest environmental risk for early death, including 6 million premature deaths annually from heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, sand respiratory diseases. Aside from these serious concerns is how air pollution affects our senses. Studies show that exposure to toxic chemicals may damage our senses from smell, and even hearing.

A 2020 Study on Air Pollution

In 2020 this a large study out of Taiwan, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health collected data from 74 studies on the effects of air pollution and hearing ability to better understand the connection.

The researchers measured the annual concentrations of carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide in the air created by the burning of fossil fuels. They used this data to make a sort of map of air pollution within the nation ranging from high, mid, or low levels of air pollution.

Once they mapped out air pollution by severity, they cross referenced this with the results of a national 20-year health survey including approximately 75,500 containing health records around residence in the city and hearing ability.

Air Pollution Can Cause Hearing Loss

The researchers were able to recognize higher instances of hearing loss in regions considered more toxic due to air pollution. In areas with high air pollution, rates of hearing loss were significantly higher than in areas with low air pollution. Meanwhile, areas with a moderate level of air pollution had moderately more cases of hearing loss.

They found that those who were exposed to high levels of nitrogen dioxide air pollution were 1.63 times more likely to have hearing loss than people who did not reside in a heavily polluted area. For those who lived among high rates of carbon monoxide exposure, the results were similar, with individuals displaying a 1.45 greater risk of hearing loss.

Why Does Air Pollution Affect Hearing?

Carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide are both considered ototoxic, which means they affect the tiny hair-like cells of the inner ear. These cells are the sole delivery system to the brain from the ears, allowing us to hear. As these cells become damaged or destroyed we are less and less likely to perceive certain parts of sounds such as lost tones and pitches.

The cells of our inner ear, like the cells across our whole body rely on a dependable supply of rich oxygenated blood delivered ultimately from the heart. When the body is exposed to ototoxic chemicals such as common environmental air pollutants, it can deprive the cells of the nutrients they need, making them more prone to further damage.

Cleaner Air, Better Hearing

It can feel overwhelming to address air pollution as it doesn’t seem to be an issue often till it affects the health of you or someone you love. Write to your local and state representatives and urge them to pass bills to reduce carbon emissions harming the air near and far. It’s important to note that policies instilled on an institutional level which protect clean air or reduce emissions can reduce your risk of hearing loss.

Schedule a Hearing Test

If you suspect that you have hearing loss, it’s important to take it seriously. The sooner you treat it the sooner you can start communicating clearer and taking control of your life again. Contact us today!