Hearing loss is not always inescapable, despite the fact that it is quite common. As they age, most adults will begin to recognize a subtle change in their hearing. Even slight differences in your hearing ability will be able to be noticed after years of hearing sound. Prevention is the best way of managing the extent of the loss and how fast it progresses, which is true of most things in life. Your hearing can be affected later in life by the things you decide to do now. When it comes to your hearing health, it’s never too late to care or too soon to begin. What steps can you take now to protect your hearing?
Learn About Your Hearing Loss
It begins with recognizing how the ears work and what causes most loss of hearing. Age-associated hearing loss, medically known as presbycusis, is affecting one in three people in the U.S. between the ages of 64 and 74. It is an accumulation of damage to the ears over time. Presbycusis starts slowly and then gets progressively worse.
The ear canal amplifies sound waves several times before they make it to the inner ear. Chemicals are secreted after being bumped by little hairs, which are in turn shaken by incoming sound waves. These chemicals are interpreted by the brain as electrical signals, which are then “heard” by the brain as sound.
All of this vibration eventually causes the hairs to begin to break down and malfunction. When these hair cells are destroyed, they are gone for good. If there are no tiny hairs, there are no chemicals released to produce the electrical signal which the brain translates as sound.
So, what creates this deterioration of the hair cells? It can be greatly increased by several factors but it can be expected, to some degree, as a part of aging. How powerful a sound wave is, is known as “volume”. If the sound is at a higher volume, then the strength of the sound wave is greater, and the hair cells take more damage.
Loud noise is undoubtedly a consideration but there are others too. Additionally, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other chronic diseases will have a strong effect.
Safeguarding Your Hearing
Safeguarding your hearing over time is dependent on good hearing hygiene. Sound volume presents the biggest problem. When sound is at a higher volume or decibel level, it is significantly more harmful to the ears. You might think that it takes a very high volume to cause damage, but it actually doesn’t. You shouldn’t need to raise your voice to talk over another sound. If you do that sound is too loud.
Your hearing can be impacted later on by even a couple of loud minutes and even more so by continued exposure. Taking precautions when you expect to be subjected to loud sound, luckily, is pretty simple. Wear hearing protection when you:
- Run power tools
- Participate in loud activities.
- Go to a performance
- Ride a motorcycle
Headphones, earbuds, and other devices designed 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 household sounds can become a hearing threat. The noise rating should be checked before you get a new appliance. It’s far better to use appliances with lower noise ratings.
When you are out at a crowded restaurant or party, don’t be afraid to tell someone if the noise gets too loud. The party’s host, or maybe even the restaurant manager may be willing to help accommodate for your issue.
Be Noise Conscious When You Are at Work
Take steps to protect your hearing if your job subjects you to loud noises. If your employer doesn’t provide hearing protection, invest in your own. There are a few products out there that will protect you such as:
Your employer will most likely be willing to listen if you bring up your concerns.
There are lots of good reasons to quit smoking and you can add hearing loss to the long list. Studies reveal that cigarette smokers are much more likely to get age-related hearing loss. Second-hand smoke can also speed up hearing loss.
Check And Double Check Your Medications
Some medications are known to cause hearing damage. This is called ototoxicity. Some typical culprits include:
- Cardiac medication
- Mood stabilizers and antidepressants
- Certain antibiotics
- Narcotic analgesics
There are many others that go on this list, including some over the counter and some prescription medications. If you take pain relievers, do so only when necessary and read the labels. If you are unsure about a drug, ask your doctor before taking it.
Treat Your Body Well
Regular exercise and a good diet are things you should do anyway but they are also important to your hearing health as well. If you have high blood pressure, do what you can to manage it like lowering your salt intake 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 loss.
Last but not least, get your hearing tested if you think you could have hearing loss or if you hear ringing in your ears. You could need hearing aids and not even know it so pay attention to your hearing. Schedule an appointment with a hearing expert to keep any problems from getting worse. It’s not too late.