Hearing Loss and Altitude: What You Should Know

Living in Wyoming or Idaho’s mountainous regions can be an incredible experience. The scenic views, fresh air, and quiet surroundings can make for a peaceful lifestyle. However, there is one potential health concern that residents of these regions may not be aware of – hearing loss due to altitude.

How Does Altitude Affect Your Hearing Health?

Altitude can affect your hearing health in several ways: 

  • The higher up you go, the thinner the air becomes. This change in air density can affect the way sound waves travel, making it harder for you to hear. 
  • The decrease in air pressure can cause fluid to accumulate in the middle ear, which can lead to temporary hearing loss. 
  • Prolonged exposure to high altitude can lead to permanent damage to the inner ear, resulting in hearing loss.
  • Ear barotrauma is a condition that occurs when there is a sudden change in pressure in the middle ear. This can happen during activities such as flying in an airplane or scuba diving, where the pressure around the ear changes rapidly. Similarly, sudden increases in altitude can cause ear barotrauma.

Living in Wyoming or Idaho’s Mountainous Regions

Wyoming and Idaho are two states that are known for their high altitude. Wyoming, in particular, has an average elevation of 6,700 feet above sea level, while Idaho has an average elevation of 5,000 feet above sea level. This means that residents of these states are at a higher risk of hearing loss due to altitude than those who live at lower elevations.

Preventing Altitude-Related Hearing Loss

Fortunately, there are steps that residents of Wyoming and Idaho’s mountainous regions can take to prevent altitude-related hearing loss. The first step is to be aware of the risk and to take precautions to protect your hearing. This can include wearing earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones when in loud environments, such as concerts or sporting events.

Another important step is to seek treatment for any fluid buildup in the middle ear. This can involve using over-the-counter decongestants or seeing an ear, nose, and throat specialist for more advanced treatment options.

Preventing Altitude-Related Ear Barotrauma

Ear barotrauma is another potential risk for those living in Wyoming or Idaho’s mountainous regions. This condition occurs when there is a sudden change in pressure in the middle ear, such as during air travel or scuba diving. When this happens, the eardrum can become damaged, leading to symptoms such as pain, fullness, and hearing loss. 

To prevent ear barotrauma, it’s important to use techniques such as yawning or swallowing to equalize pressure in the ears during altitude changes, and to avoid flying or diving if you have a cold or other respiratory infection. If you do experience symptoms of ear barotrauma, it’s important to see an ear, nose, and throat specialist for treatment, as untreated barotrauma can lead to permanent hearing damage.

Living in Wyoming or Idaho’s mountainous regions can be a wonderful experience, but it’s important to be aware of the potential risks to your hearing health. By taking the necessary precautions and seeking treatment when needed, you can help protect your hearing and continue to enjoy the many benefits of life in the mountains.

Need Help? Have a Question? Contact Us Today!

If you’re concerned that altitude may have impacted your hearing health, the Regional Hearing and Balance hearing specialists are on hand to help. To book an appointment, call Regional Hearing and Balance Center on 208-497-3596 or click here to request your appointment online.

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The purpose of this hearing assessment and/or demonstration is for hearing wellness and to determine if the consumer may benefit from using hearing aids, which may include selling and fitting hearing aids. Products demonstrated may differ from products sold. Assessment conclusion is not a medical diagnosis and further testing may be required to diagnose hearing loss. The use of any hearing aid may not fully restore normal hearing and does not prevent future hearing loss. Hearing instruments may not meet the needs of all hearing-impaired individuals.