Your hearing is one of your most beneficial assets, but what can you do to keep it safe? You probably already know that most people experience some hearing loss with age. What you might not know is that it has very little to do with getting older. This type of hearing loss occurs because of the damage people do to their ears over time. Looking for practical ways to protect your hearing right now will make all the difference later to prevent hearing decline.
The fact is there might still a slight decline in your hearing when you get older, but taking steps now can reduce the extent of the damage and reduce your risk of significant hearing loss. Consider six things you can do right now to avoid requiring hearing aids in 10 years.
1. Get Educated About Hearing Loss
There are two primary reasons you might lose your hearing:
Hearing is a very mechanical process. It starts when sound moves into the outer ears as a wave of vibrations. The ear drum amplifies that wave as it moves down the canal where it hits three small bones causing them to vibrate. Those bones, in turn, transmit the vibrations to the inner ear, or cochlea. Inside the cochlea are tiny hairs that move as the vibrations hit them.
It’s the hair cells that are typically the root of most age-related hearing problems. Extreme noise can damage the cells even though they naturally lose some viability over the years. It’s the combination of normal aging and chronic loud sound that hurts you, though.
Your goal is to come up with ways to keep the hair cells healthy and that starts with reducing their exposure to loud sounds. It’s a combination of environmental damage and natural aging is what leads to hearing aids for many people. Since you can’t do anything about aging, focus on what you can control – environmental damage.
2. Lose the Headphones
One practical approach is to protect the delicate inner ear is by losing the headphones so many people love to wear when listening to music or watching TV. Headphones isolated the sound, so it enters the ear in a stronger wave. The mechanisms of the ear don’t change just because the sound is loud. When a strong wave hits the ear canal, the eardrum still amplifies it and the tiny bones still vibrate. The sound is now a violent wave as it hits the hair cells causing damage along the way. That happens every single time you put on those headphones no matter what the volume.
3. Calculate the Noise Factor
Even without headphones, your ears are exposed to a variety of sound levels. Everything from the local band to your lawn mower has an impact on your future hearing ability. You need to figure out what sounds are causing hearing damage.
NHS lists the sound level of normal conversation at about 60 dB. Compare that to the sound of your lawnmower which is closer to 85 dB and you’ll start to get the idea. Going to see your favorite band exposes you to about 120 dB.
- Regular weekly noise over 105 dB causes damage.
- Lower daily noise levels at 80 to 90db also cause damage
If you are playing your music on the loud setting each day, the level is about 112 dB, so turn it down.
4. Limit Your Noise Exposure
If you can avoid loud noises, then do. Start by getting used to listening to music at lower volume levels. You’ll be surprised on easily your ears adjust, especially in a tight space like the car. Ask others to respect your need for lower noise levels, too.
5. Wear Hearing Protection
Being hearing smart doesn’t mean you have to miss your favorite concert or change jobs to avoid the sound of a jackhammer. Just wear ear protection if exposed to loud noise. Get ear plugs for the concert and when mowing the lawn, you can wear headphones. If your job puts you at risk, make sure your employer requires all employees to wear ear protection.
6. Get Ear Checkups
Start with a baseline hearing test and then get an ear checkup at least once a year. Talk to your doctor about scheduling follow up hearing tests as you grow older, so you know if you have hearing problems.
Healthcare reform focuses on wellness care. You should extend that concept to your ears and protect your hearing now, so you can enjoy it later.