Hearing loss is not always inevitable, although it is quite common. As they age, the vast majority of adults will start to detect a change in their hearing. Even slight changes in your hearing will be able to be noticed after years of hearing sound. Prevention is the best method of controlling the extent of the loss and how quickly it advances, which is the case with most things in life. Your hearing will be affected later on in life by the choices you make now. You should carefully consider it now because you can still lessen further hearing loss. You really want to keep your hearing from getting worse, but what can be done?
Get The Facts About Hearing Loss
Understanding what causes most hearing loss begins with finding out how the ears work. Age-associated hearing loss, medically known as presbycusis, affects one in three people in the U.S. between the ages of 64 and 74. It is a cumulation of damage to the ears over the years. Presbycusis starts slowly and then gets worse over time.
Sound comes into the ear in pressure waves that are amplified several times before they finally reach the inner ear. Sound waves wiggle tiny hairs that bump against chemical releasing structures. These chemicals are translated into electrical signals that the brain interprets as sound.
The negative aspect to all this movement and bumping is that the hair cells ultimately break down and stop working. When these hair cells are destroyed, they are gone for good. The sound is not translated into a signal that the brain can understand without those little vibrating hairs.
What’s behind this hair cell destruction? It can be considerably increased by several factors but it can be expected, to some degree, with aging. How powerful a sound wave is, is known as “volume”. If the sound is at a higher volume, then the force of the sound wave is greater, and the hair cells take more damage.
Direct exposure to loud noise isn’t the only factor. Chronic illnesses like high blood pressure and diabetes take a toll, as well.
How to Protect Your Hearing
Consistent hearing hygiene is an important part of protecting your ears over time. At the center of the problem is volume. When sound is at a higher volume or decibel level, it is exponentially more harmful to the ears. Damage is caused at a substantially lower decibel level then you would think. You shouldn’t have to raise your voice to talk over another sound. If you do that sound is too loud.
Even a few loud minutes, let alone continued exposure, will be enough to cause an adverse effect later on. Taking precautions when you expect to be subjected to loud sound, luckily, is pretty easy. Wear hearing protection when you:
- Go to a performance
- Run power tools
- Participate in loud activities.
- Ride a motorcycle
Avoid using devices designed to amplify and isolate sound, too, like headphones and earbuds. The old-fashioned way is a safer way to listen to music and that means at a lower volume.
Every-Day Noises That Can be a Problem
Even the things around your home can produce enough noise to be a problem over time. Nowadays, appliances and other home devices have noise ratings. The lower the rating the better.
If you are out at a crowded restaurant or party, don’t be scared to tell someone if the noise gets too loud. The party’s host, or possibly even the restaurant manager might be willing to help accommodate for your issue.
Be Conscious of Noise at Work
At work, protect your ears if your work-place is loud. Get your own ear protection if it’s not provided by your manager. There are numerous products out there that are made to protect you such as:
If you bring up the situation, it’s likely that your employer will listen.
Put hearing health on the list of reasons to quit smoking. Studies show that smokers are much more likely to get age-related hearing loss. Second-hand smoke can also speed up hearing loss.
Be Certain to Look Closely at Medications That You Take
Ototoxic medications are known to cause damage to your ears. Some common culprits include:
- Cardiac medication
- Narcotic analgesics
- Certain antibiotics
- Mood stabilizers and antidepressants
This list is a combination of over-the-counter products and prescription medications and it doesn’t cover all of them. If you use pain relievers, do so only when necessary and check the labels. Consult your doctor first if you are unsure.
Be Good to Your Body
The common things you should do anyway like eating right and exercise are an important part of preventing hearing loss from getting worse, especially as you start to get older. Lower the amount of sodium you eat and take your medications to manage your high blood pressure. The better you take care of your body, the lower your chances of chronic illnesses that could cost you your hearing over time, like diabetes.
Lastly, have your hearing tested if you believe you have hearing loss or if you hear ringing in your ears. Pay close attention to your hearing because you may not even realize that you may need hearing aids. Schedule an appointment with a hearing expert to keep any issues from getting even worse. It’s never too late.