Loss of hearing is normal for most people, but is it inevitable? The fact is, the majority of adults will start to notice a change in their hearing as they age. That change is just the effect of many years of listening to sound. The degree of the loss and how fast it progresses is best controlled with prevention, as is true with most things in life. Later in your life, the extent of your hearing loss will depend on the decisions you make now. You should consider it sooner than later because you can still protect against further hearing loss. What steps can you take now to protect your hearing?
Understanding Hearing Loss
Learning how the ears work is step one to knowing what causes most hearing loss. Age-related hearing loss, known medically as presbycusis, affects one in three people in this country between the ages of 64 and 74. It is a cumulation of damage to the ears over time. Presbycusis is slight at first and then gets progressively worse.
Sound enters the ear in waves that are amplified several times before they reach the inner ear. As it arrives, the sound shakes little hairs cells, causing them to bump structures which release chemicals to create an electrical message which the brain translates into sound.
Breaking down over time, because of the constant vibration, the tiny hairs finally quit. When these hair cells are destroyed, they are gone forever. The sound is not translated into a signal that the brain can understand without those little vibrating hairs.
What’s the story behind this hair cell destruction? It can be greatly increased by several factors but it can be anticipated, to varying degrees, as a part of aging. How strong a sound wave is, is generally known as “volume”. The louder the volume, the more powerful the sound wave and the bigger the impact on the hair cells.
There are some other factors besides exposure to loud noise. Chronic diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes have an affect, as well.
How to Protect Your Hearing
Safeguarding your ears over time depends on good hearing hygiene. Volume is at the heart of the problem. Sound is far more dangerous when it’s at a louder volume or decibel level. You might think that it takes a very high volume to cause damage, but it actually doesn’t. A noise is too loud if you have to raise your voice to talk over it.
Even just a few loud minutes, not to mention continued exposure, will be enough to cause an adverse effect later on. Fortunately protecting your ears from expected loud noises is fairly easy. Wear hearing protection when you:
- Run power tools
- Participate in loud activities.
- Go to a performance
- Ride a motorcycle
Avoid using devices designed to amplify and isolate sound, also, like headphones and earbuds. Listen to music the old-fashioned way and at a lesser volume.
Manage The Noise Around You
Even the items in your house can make enough noise to be a threat over time. Nowadays, appliances and other home devices come with noise ratings. The lower the noise rating the better.
Don’t be afraid to speak up if the noise is too loud when you’re at a restaurant or party. The party’s host, or maybe even the restaurant manager may be willing to help accommodate for your issue.
Be Aware of Noise Levels at Work
If your job exposes you to loud noises like equipment, you should do something about it. Purchase your own hearing protection if it’s not provided by your employer. There are numerous products out there that will protect you such as:
Your employer will most likely listen if you bring up your worries.
Add hearing to the long list of reasons to quit smoking. Studies show that cigarette smokers are much more likely to get age-related hearing loss. Second-hand smoke can also speed up hearing loss.
Double Check Medications
Some medications are ototoxic, meaning they can cause damage to your hearing. A few common offenders include:
- Antidepressants and mood stabilizers
- Certain antibiotics
- Cardiac medication
- Narcotic analgesics
This list is a mix of over-the-counter products and prescription medications and it’s not even all of them. If you take pain relievers, do so only when necessary and check the labels. Ask your doctor first if you are not sure.
Take Good Care of Your Body
The common things you should do anyway like eating right and exercise are an essential part of preventing hearing loss from getting worse, particularly as you get older. Do what is needed to deal with your high blood pressure like taking your medication and reducing sodium consumption. You have a lower risk of chronic illness, such as diabetes, if you take good care of your body and this leads to lower chances of hearing loss.
Finally, have your hearing tested if you think you could have hearing loss or if you hear ringing in your ears. The sooner you realize you have a problem, the sooner you can do something about it, such as getting hearing aids. If you detect any changes in your hearing, schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist. It’s never too late to take care of your hearing.