Hearing loss is normal for most people, but is it inevitable? The truth is, the majority of adults will start to perceive a change in their hearing as they age. Even slight differences in your hearing will be able to be noticed after years of hearing sound. The degree of the loss and how quickly it advances is best managed with prevention, as is true with most things in life. Later in your life, how bad your hearing loss is will be determined by the decisions you make now. You should think about it now because you can still protect against further loss of hearing. What can you do to prevent your hearing loss from getting worse?
Get The Facts About Hearing Loss
Learning how the ears work is the first step to knowing what causes most hearing loss. Age-associated hearing loss, known medically as presbycusis, affects one in every three people in America from 64 to 74. It is a cumulation of damage to the ears over time. Presbycusis is slight at first and then gets progressively worse.
Sound comes into the ear in waves that are amplified a number of times before they finally get to the inner ear. Chemicals are discharged after being bumped by little hairs, which are in turn shaken by incoming waves of sound. These chemicals are translated by the brain into electrical signals, which are then “heard” by the brain as sound.
Breaking down over time, due to the constant vibration, the tiny hairs finally quit. These hair cells don’t fix themselves, either, so once they’re gone, they don’t come back. If you lose those tiny hairs, there are no chemicals released to generate the electrical impulse which the brain interprets as sound.
So, what leads to this damage to the hair cells? It will happen, to some extent, with normal aging but there are other factors which will also contribute. How strong a sound wave is, is known as “volume”. The louder the volume, the stronger the sound wave and the bigger the injury to the hair cells.
There are some other considerations apart from exposure to loud noise. Also, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other chronic diseases will have a strong effect.
Protecting Your Hearing
Good hearing hygiene is an important part of taking care of your hearing over time. At the root of the problem is volume. When sound is at a higher volume or decibel level, it is significantly more detrimental to the ears. You might think that it takes a very loud decibel level to cause injury, but it actually doesn’t. A noise is too loud if you have to raise your voice to talk over it.
Even a few loud minutes, never mind constant exposure, will be enough to have an adverse effect later on. Taking precautions when you expect to be subjected to loud sound, fortunately, is pretty easy. Use hearing protection when you:
- Do something where the noise is loud.
- Go to a performance
- Run power equipment
- Ride a motorcycle
Headphones, earbuds, and other accessories made to isolate and amplify sound should be avoided. A lower volume should be chosen and use regular speakers.
Control The Noise Around You
Over time, even everyday sounds will become a hearing threat. The noise rating should be taken into consideration before you get a new appliance. Try to use appliances that have a lower noise rating.
If you are out at a crowded restaurant or party, don’t be afraid to speak up if the noise is too loud. The host of the party, or perhaps even the restaurant manager may be willing to help accommodate for your issue.
Be Aware of Noise Levels at Work
Take steps to safeguard your hearing if your job exposes you to loud sounds. If your employer doesn’t provide hearing protection, get your own. There are a few products out there that are made to protect you such as:
There’s a good chance that if you mention your concern, your manager will listen.
There are lots of good reasons to give up smoking and you can add hearing loss to the long list. Studies reveal that smokers are much more likely to experience age-related hearing loss. Second-hand smoke can also speed up hearing loss.
Look Twice at Medications
Certain medications are ototoxic, meaning they can cause damage to your hearing. Some common culprits include:
- Certain antibiotics
- Antidepressants and mood stabilizers
- Narcotic analgesics
- Cardiac medication
The complete list is quite a bit longer than this and consists of prescription medication and over the counter medicines. If you use pain relievers, do so only when necessary and read the labels. Consult your doctor first if you are not sure.
Take Good Care of Your Health
To prevent hearing loss it’s particularly important, as you get older, to do the normal things that keep you healthy, like eating well and getting regular exercise. If you have high blood pressure, do what you can to manage it like lowering your sodium consumption and taking the medication prescribed to you. 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 problems.
If you have hearing loss or if you hear ringing in your ears, get a hearing exam. The sooner you recognize you have a problem, the sooner you can do something about it, such as getting hearing aids. Schedule an appointment with a hearing expert to keep any issues from getting even worse. It’s not too late.