Most people associate hearing loss with genetics or age, however there are many controllable factors that can affect hearing. As we enter the Winter months, it’s important to consider how exposure to cold weather conditions can increase the risk of hearing loss. Fortunately, you can prevent damage by understanding how cold weather can hurt your hearing, and taking the necessary Winter precautions!
- Exostosis (commonly called ‘Surfer’s Ear’) – Exostosis is the term for when an abnormal growth forms in the ear canal, blocking the passage and impeding hearing. A common misconception- surfer’s ear doesn’t just affect surfers. Anybody exposed to cold temperatures, strong winds, and cold water for long periods of time is at risk. With Exostosis, the ear can no longer produce and expel earwax using conventional methods; so multiple ear infections are a sign of exostosis. In fact, multiple ear infections without Exostosis can lead to hearing loss as well.
- Sensorineural Deafness – It is common to experience cold or flu-related hearing impairment during the Winter months. Your ears, nose, and throat are closely linked after all. But severe or persistent hearing loss could be a sign of “sensorineural hearing loss.” This means that the infection which has been causing your other cold or flu-like symptoms has infected the ear, causing swelling around the nerve which transmits the signals created by the ear. This swelling temporarily compresses the nerve, causing hearing loss. If that hearing loss is left untreated, it could be permanant. Because of the increased rate of infection during the colder months, people with Sensorineural Deafness may think they just have a common cold at first.
- Damaged Hearing Aids — The cold itself is not necessarily damaging, but the condensation that occurs due to temperature change can set into the hearing aid and damage it. Even when it isn’t snowing or raining, moisture is present because extreme temperature changes are common in the winter. Individuals who wear hearing aids should take special care of their devices since cold temperatures can impact how they function.
- Wear earmuffs or a hat with sweat-wicking capabilities, to prevent moisture buildup within the ear.
- Dry out hearing aids, nightly, to ensure batteries are kept moistureless
- If you are sick, try not to travel by plane. Your inner ears may not be able to equalize pressure properly, leading to the potential for rupture.
- Wear ear protection or ear plugs when using snow blowers or attending loud indoor activities.