Oral health refers to the hygiene and well-being of your mouth. Aural health, though it may sound similar, is related to the ears. Believe it or not, the two are far more closely connected than you might think. 

You may have already heard about the surprising connection between dental care and heart health—about the fact that poor oral care has been linked to a range of conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.  What you may not know is that failure to take proper care of your mouth can result in more than just the loss of a few teeth. Insufficient oral care or gum disease can actually cause hearing loss, both temporary and permanent.  

How Gum Disease Can Damage Your Hearing

Poor enough oral health can result in a range of nasty infections like abscessed teeth. Left untreated, these conditions can spread to other areas of the body, either by contaminating the blood or by spreading to nearby organs. That includes the ears. 

And if the infection wreaking havoc on your gums happens to spread to, say, the cochlea? That could ultimately result in the death of the stereocilia within. Given that stereocilia are necessary for hearing, that means irreversible impairment. 

Tooth decay can have a similar effect, particularly if a cavity is allowed to develop into an abscess. Impacted wisdom teeth are also a concern, as they have a great risk of becoming infected and inflamed. 

What Other Oral Conditions Can Cause Hearing Loss?

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ) is another common oral condition that can result in hearing loss. With TMJ, the joint that connects the jaw to the skull becomes severely inflamed. Tinnitus and impaired hearing are common symptoms alongside pain and limited movement. 

Although the exact mechanism by which this hearing impairment occurs isn't entirely clear, it's been theorized that it may either be due to increased pressure on the middle ear resulting in a clogged eustachian tube. The good news is that the hearing impairment that results from TMJ is rarely permanent, and usually subsides with treatment of the condition. 

How to Protect Against Gum Disease Related Hearing Loss

The good news is that in most cases, it's quite easy to ensure you don't lose your hearing as a result of gum disease or tooth decay. All you really need to do is brush and floss daily and visit the dentist at least once a year for a checkup. If you really want to be cautious, we'd also advise you to avoid overly sugary food.

Beyond that, the same general advice for promoting good hearing health applies. Schedule regular appointments with your audiologist to get your hearing tested and have your ears examined. And avoid jamming anything into your ear canal—especially Q Tips. 

Seriously, just don't do it.