air pollution

Can Air Pollution Affect Our Hearing Abilities?

With the recent train derailment in East Palestine Ohio, last month many of us are wondering how safe we are from the environmental impact. Fortunately, we were lucky to be just north of the watershed attached to the Ohio river, but that doesn’t absolve us from the impact to air quality from the controlled burn from the toxic spill. Air pollution is a serious threat in our area after years of industrial revolution and industry in the rust belt. Aside from causing cancer and breathing issues environmental toxins have the real potential to cause an unexpected health concern—hearing loss!

The dangers of hearing Loss

While many people underestimate the importance of our hearing health, it’s more than just an ear issue. Hearing helps us to connect to others, keeping us engaged and social as well as keeping us connected to our surroundings as we navigate the world daily. Many are surprised to discover that this chronic condition affects around 1 in eight people in the United States of all ages and contributes to chronic social anxiety, social isolation, depression, cognitive decline, dementia and an increased risk of falls.

Air pollution and hearing Loss

While there are many causes of hearing loss including changes to our ears as we age, exposure to sound and impact to the head, many are surprised when they find out how damaging air pollution can be for hearing. We collect sound with our ears but hearing happens in the brain. Sound is transferred to our brain via tiny hair like cells called stereocilia, which transform audio waves into electrical impulses.


Stereocilia are incredibly fragile and can become damaged by a wide range of causes such as violent vibrations as sounds reach past safe listening levels, or impact to the head. These cells are also prone to damage when they don’t receive enough oxygenated blood. Ototoxic chemicals are those which constrict blood to the cells of the ears and can include certain prescription and over the counter medications as well as environmental toxins. In fact, a recent study found out just how serious air pollution can be for our hearing health. Researchers identified that exposure to varying levels of carbon monoxide (CO2) as well as nitrogen dioxide (NO2) ) from car exhausts, energy facilities and factories were linked with increases in high rates of hearing loss. .

Where does air pollution come from? 

These days it is hard to escape from air pollution if you live in an urban or suburban area. Even rural areas are not free from fumes and run off from agriculture and industrial plants. Air pollution is produced when fossil fuels are burned, while we run our gas-powered cars or enjoy electrical power from a power plant. Electricity and cars are such a big part of most of our daily lives, that it is hard to imagine what we would do without it! However, high concentrations of air pollution may be taking a toll on your hearing.

Linking hearing loss and air pollution

A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health included data from the National Health Insurance Research Database in Taiwan which considered data from 75,767 participants over 20 years of age. By focusing on those who had no history of hearing loss, the researchers observed that as exposure to air pollution increased, so did instances of hearing loss.

Reducing air pollution exposure

It’s hard to escape air pollution these days. It’s hard these days to even move away from it. You can invest in air purifiers in your home and make sure you have plenty of indoor plants to clean the air. However, to make a real change, contact your local representatives and urge others to do the same in a campaign to lower emissions in vehicles and energy plants.

Ways to protect yourself from hearing loss

If you suspect that your hearing has been affected by air pollution the effects are unfortunately irreversible. The good news is that hearing loss can be treated effectively using hearing aids. To find out if hearing aids are right for you, contact us today to set up a hearing exam. We can recommend the best plan of action to help you hear better for years to come. Contact us now!