Loss of hearing is common for the majority of people, but is it inevitable? As they get older, the majority of people will start to take note of a change in their ability to hear. Even small changes in your hearing will be able to be noticed after years of hearing sound. Prevention is the best method of managing the extent of the loss and how quickly it advances, which is the case with most things in life. Your hearing can be affected later on in your life by the choices you make now. In terms of your hearing health, it’s never too late to care or too soon to start. You want to keep your hearing from becoming worse, but what can you do?
Understanding Hearing Loss
It starts with understanding how the ears work and what causes most hearing loss. Age-associated hearing loss, known medically 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 progressively worse.
Sound goes into the ear in waves that are amplified a number of times before they get to the inner ear. Chemicals are discharged after being bumped into by little hairs, which are in turn shaken by incoming sound waves. These chemicals are translated by the brain into electrical signals, which are then “heard” by the brain as sound.
The downside to all this shaking and oscillation is that the hair cells ultimately break down and stop working. Once these hair cells are gone they won’t grow back. Without those cells to produce the electrical impulses, the sound is never translated into a language the brain can comprehend.
What’s the story behind this hair cell damage? It will happen, to some degree, with aging but there are other things which will also contribute. How powerful a sound wave is, is generally known as “volume”. More damage is done to the hair cells if they receive stronger sound waves, and that means a higher volume of sound.
Loud noise is certainly a consideration but there are others too. Chronic illnesses like high blood pressure and diabetes have an affect, as well.
Protecting Your Hearing
You need to rely on good hearing hygiene to take care of your ears over time. Sound volume presents the biggest problem. Sound is a lot more hazardous when it’s at a higher volume or decibel level. It doesn’t take as much as you may think to cause damage. A noise is too loud if you have to raise your voice to talk over it.
Everyone has to cope with the random loud noise but continuous exposure or even just a couple of loud minutes at a time is sufficient to impact your hearing 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.
- Run power equipment
- Go to a performance
- Ride a motorcycle
Headphones, earbuds, and other accessories designed to isolate and amplify sound should be avoided. A lower volume should be chosen and use conventional speakers.
Every-Day Noises That Can Become an Issue
Enough noise can be produced, even by every-day household sounds, to become a hearing threat over time. When you purchase an appliance for your home, check the noise rating of the product. It’s far better to use equipment with lower noise ratings.
If the noise is too loud when you are out at a party or restaurant, don’t be scared to speak up. A restaurant manager may be willing to turn down the background music for you or possibly even move you to another table away from loud speakers or clanging dishes.
Pay Attention to Noise Levels at Work
Take the proper steps to protect your hearing if your job exposes you to loud sounds. If your company doesn’t provide hearing protection, invest in your own. There are plenty of products out there that are made to protect you such as:
If you bring up the worries, chances are your boss will listen.
Give up Smoking
Put hearing health on the long list of reasons to quit smoking. Studies demonstrate that cigarette smokers are much more likely to experience age-related hearing loss. Second-hand smoke can also speed up hearing loss.
All The Medications That You Take Should be Closely Evaluated
Some medications are known to cause hearing damage. This is called ototoxicity. Some common offenders include:
- Certain antibiotics
- Narcotic analgesics
- Antidepressants and mood stabilizers
- Cardiac medication
This list is a combination of over-the-counter products and prescription medications and it’s not even all of them. Only use pain relievers if you really need them and be sure to read all of the labels. Consult your doctor first if you are unsure.
Take Good Care of Your Health
Exercising and eating right are things you should do for your general health but they are also important to your hearing health. Decrease the amount of salt you eat and take your medications to manage your high blood pressure. The better you care for your health, the lower your chances of chronic sicknesses that might cost you your hearing over time, like diabetes.
If you suspect you hear ringing in your ears or if you have some hearing loss, get your hearing examined. Pay close attention to your hearing because you may not even recognize that you may need hearing aids. If you detect any changes in your hearing, schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist. It’s not too late to take care of your hearing.