Can Sneezing Affect Your Hearing

A sneeze starts with a tickle in your nose, something tiny has entered you nose such as a dust and irritates the mucous lining, a large amount of pressure suddenly builds up in your lungs, you suddenly hold your breathe, your eyes and vocal cords shut and air is directly forced through and out of the nose and mouth at a whopping speed of up to 100 miles per hour.

A sneeze is a protective mechanism for protecting your body from breathing in toxic particles in the air.

How loud or distinct your Ah-choo is, is variable. The process of a sneeze is the same for everyone how it is then represented depends on our own individual reflexes. With those who manage to pass their sneeze off rather discretley to those that make head turns in the room due to their high volume.

This can be depended on various anatomical differences such as their lung capacity and the amount of air inhaled pre sneeze and how long their breathe is held for.  Additionally how you have learn't to sneeze is quite dependent on your upbringing and developed manners.

For example the very essence of saying the words Ah Choo is what is said by sneezers who are English speaking and bless you in response. Where as in Japanese you would say hatashun as you sneeze and in Spanish a response to someone sneezing would be salud.

So how does this a sneeze relate to hearing and your ears?

A sneeze can measures at a loudness level of  90dB at a distance of 60 centimeters (Measured by the Brisbane based Noise Measurement Services). Loud lawn mowers are about a similar noise level, however this is a level that would only cause hearing damage if the sneeze continued for 45 minutes straight rather than the split second they usually last (check out HSE Sound Advice for on noise regulations and duration limits within noise) .

It is not the loudness level of the sneeze that is the likely cause of hearing damage rather the personal choice to reduce how loud the sneeze is percieved. By covering your mouth you may reduce your sneeze by 10dB. Also soley sneezing through your nose will make your sneeze even quieter than sneezing through your mouth.

In 2018 an article was published in the British Medical Journal about a man who supressed a sneeze by closing his mouth and blocking both nostrils resulted in him bursting a hole through his throat. It is not recommended to hold or block a sneeze, this can force air into other areas it shoudn't go such as into the middle ear cavity via the eustachian tube.

Hearing loss due to holding in a sneeze is low however not impossible due to the pressure build up capable of causing middle and inner ear damage.

So what is the best way to make sure you don't damage your hearing when you sneeze? Just let it out naturally but cover your mouth to prevent the spread of germs. (we recommend the vampire approach where you cover your nose and mouth with your inner arm)

For more information:

https://www.bmj.com/company/newsroom/dont-hold-your-nose-and-close-your-...

https://www.evidence.nhs.uk/search?q=Sneezing

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hay-fever/

https://www.babbel.com/en/magazine/how-to-respond-to-sneeze-in-6-differe...

https://www.hse.gov.uk/pUbns/priced/hsg260.pdf

Quick Tips

To hear with a hearing aid on the phone, hold the telephone near the hearing aid microphone, if you have a behind the ear hearing aid this will be behind your ear.