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Researchers are constantly discovering more connections between your ears and the health of other body systems. If you’ve been looking for one more reason to drop a bad habit consider your hearing. Once it’s gone, you can’t get it back! These 5 bad habits cause hearing loss:

Smoking

You’ve known for many years that smoking is bad for you; it even says it directly on the box of cigarettes. One of the often-overlooked side affects of smoking is hearing loss. The chemicals produced by smoking a cigarette inhibit your inner ear’s ability to transmit vibrations. The more you smoke the more irreversible damage will be done. Second-hand smoke has the same affect on loved ones.

Drinking

A study in 2010 found that moderate to high alcohol intake results in brain damage that keeps the brain from being able to interpret and process sounds. The trouble is even worse for folks with alcoholism. The central auditory cortex becomes damaged, which may lead to brain shrinkage. Damage to the inner ear known as ototoxicity, is also possible for excessive drinkers. High levels of alcohol in the bloodstream create a toxic environment, which damages the hair cells in the cochlea.

Obesity

Being over weight puts you at risk for a barrage of problems ranging from diabetes to circulatory trouble, to straining your heart, all of which have been linked to hearing loss. Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital published a study in 2013 that found women with a higher body mass index had a 17 percent higher risk of hearing loss. The study also found that simple physical activity, such as walking for 2 or more hours a week lowered that risk of hearing loss.

Skipping the Dentist

You may not immediately think your dental health and hearing health are connected, but they certainly are. Poor dental health allows harmful bacteria to enter the bloodstream, narrowing and blocking arteries that lead to the brain. This can interrupt the way the brain receives signals from the auditory nerve. Bad oral hygiene can also lead to heart disease, heart attack, stroke and diabetes, which have been linked to hearing loss.

Skipping the Doctor

An annual physical can detect hearing loss, but more importantly the doctor will be able to tell you if your hearing loss is caused by something other than age. An obstruction, such as earwax buildup, inflammation or tumor can be addressed and possibly get you hearing again or stop further damage.

It is true many people lose their hearing as they age, but these five bad habits can easily speed up that process. If you take care of your body, avoid these bad habits, and protect your ears you may be able to maintain your hearing.