Loss of hearing is common for most people, but is it inevitable? The reality is, the majority of people will begin to perceive a change in their hearing as they age. After listening to sound for years, you will begin to recognize even slight changes in your hearing ability. The degree of the loss and how rapidly it advances is best managed with prevention, as is true with most things in life. There are things you can do now that will impact your hearing later on in your life. You should consider it sooner than later because you can still protect against further hearing loss. What are the steps you can take right now to protect your hearing?
Learn About Your Hearing Loss
Knowing what causes most hearing loss begins with learning how the ears work. Age-related hearing loss, medically known as presbycusis, affects one in every 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 waves of sound several times before they get to the inner ear. Sound waves oscillate tiny hairs which bump against chemical releasing structures. These chemicals are translated into electrical signals that the brain interprets as sound.
All of this rumbling inevitably causes the hairs to begin to break down and malfunction. When these hair cells are destroyed, they are gone for good. Without those cells to produce the electrical impulses, the sound can’t be translated into a language the brain can comprehend.
How exactly do these hair cells get damaged? It will happen, to some extent, with normal aging but there are other factors which will also contribute. Sound waves come in countless strengths, though; that is what you know as volume. If the sound is at a higher volume, then the force of the sound wave is greater, and the hair cells take more damage.
There are some other considerations aside from exposure to loud sound. Additionally, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other chronic ailments will have a strong effect.
How to Protect Your Hearing
Protecting your ears over time depends on consistent hearing hygiene. Volume is at the heart of the issue. Sound is much more unsafe when it’s at a higher volume or decibel level. You might think that it takes a very high volume to cause injury, but it doesn’t. A noise is too loud if you have to raise your voice to talk over it.
Everyone deals with the occasional loud noise but continued exposure or even just a couple of loud minutes at a time is enough to impact your hearing later in life. Taking precautions when you expect to be exposed to loud sound, luckily, is pretty simple. Wear hearing protection when you:
- Go to a performance
- Run power tools
- Participate in loud activities.
- Ride a motorcycle
Headphones, earbuds, and other accessories designed to isolate and amplify sound should be avoided. The old-fashioned way is a safer way to listen to music and that means at a lower volume.
Day-to-Day Noises That Can be a Problem
Even the items in your house can generate enough noise to become a problem over time. The noise rating should be taken into consideration before you get a new appliance. Try to use appliances that have a lower noise rating.
Don’t worry about speaking up if the noise gets too loud when you are at a restaurant or party. A restaurant manager might be willing to turn the background music down for you or perhaps even move you to a different table away from noisy speakers or clanging dishes.
Pay Attention to Noise Levels While at Work
If your job subjects you to loud noises like equipment, then do something about it. Invest in your own ear protection if it is not provided by your employer. Here are several products that will protect your hearing:
If you bring up the worries, it’s likely that your manager will listen.
Add hearing to the list of reasons to quit smoking. Studies demonstrate that smokers are much more likely to experience 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. Several common culprits include:
- Narcotic analgesics
- Certain antibiotics
- 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 when you really need them and make sure you check all of the labels. If you are uncertain about a drug, ask your doctor before taking it.
Take Good Care of Your Body
Exercising and eating right are things you should do for your general health but they are also important to your hearing health as well. Reduce 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.
Finally, have your hearing examined if you think you may have hearing loss or if you hear ringing in your ears. 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.