The ironic part of hearing loss is that we don’t have a tendency to begin appreciating our favorite sounds until after we’ve lost the capability to clearly hear them. We don’t pause to give thought to, for instance, how much we appreciate a good conversation with a friend until we have to recurrently ask them to repeat themselves.
Whether it’s your favorite Mozart album or the sounds of a Bluejay first thing in the morning, your total well being is closely tied to your capability to hear—whether you recognize it or not. And if you wait until after you’ve lost your hearing to come to this understanding, you’re going to devote a tremendous amount of time and effort working to get it back.
So how can you conserve your ability to hear?
Here are 6 ways you could lose your hearing and what you can do about it.
1. Genetics and aging
Age-related hearing loss, also called presbycusis, is the loss of hearing that steadily develops as we grow old. Along with presbycusis, there is also some evidence indicating that genetics plays a role, and that some of us are more prone to hearing loss than others.
While there’s not much you can do to avoid the aging process or alter your genes, you can avoid noise-induced hearing loss from the other sources shown below. And keep in mind that age-related hearing loss is a great deal more challenging to treat if aggravated by avoidable damage.
Habitual exposure to sound levels above 85 decibels can cause permanent hearing loss, which is not-so-good news if you happen to own a convertible. New research reveals that driving a convertible with the top down at excessive speeds generates an average sound level of 90 decibels. Motorcyclists face even higher sounds and those who use the subway are at risk as well.
So does everyone either have to give up travel or live with permanent earplugs? Not exactly, but you should certainly find ways to limit your collective noise exposure during travel. If you own a convertible, roll up your car windows and drive a little slower; if you ride a motorcycle, wear a helmet and think about earplugs; and if you ride the subway, think about purchasing noise-canceling headphones.
3. Going to work
As reported by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), 22 million workers in the US are exposed to potentially harmful noise levels on the job. The highest risk jobs are in manufacturing, farming, construction, the military, and the music industry.
The last thing you want is to spend your entire working life amassing hearing loss that will prevent you from taking pleasure in your retirement. Consult your employer about its hearing protection plan, and if they don’t have one, contact your local hearing specialist for custom solutions.
4. Taking drugs and smoking
Smoking interferes with blood flow, on top of other things, which could enhance your risk of developing hearing loss—if you really needed another reason to quit. Antibiotics, potent pain medications, and a large number of other drugs are “ototoxic,” or damaging to the cells of hearing. In fact, there are more than 200 known ototoxic medications.
The bottom line: avoid taking ototoxic drugs or medications unless completely necessary. Speak to your doctor if you have any questions.
5. Listening to music
85 is turning out to be quite an inconvenient number. All of our favorite activities yield decibel levels just over this limit, and any sound over 85 decibels can result in hearing loss. If the threshold were just slightly higher, say 100 decibels, we wouldn’t have to worry about it so much.
But 85 it is. And portable music players at full volume get to more than 100 decibels while rock shows reach more than 110. The solution is straight forward: turn down your iPod, wear earplugs at live shows, and minimize your length of exposure to the music.
6. Getting sick or injured
Certain ailments, such as diabetes, along with any traumatic head injuries, places you at greater risk of developing hearing loss. If you have diabetes, regular exercise, a healthy diet, and regular tracking of blood sugar levels is essential. And if you ride a motorcycle, wearing a helmet will help prevent traumatic head injuries.
Talk to Your Hearing Specialist
Although there are numerous ways to lose your hearing, a few easy lifestyle modifications can help you maintain your hearing for life. Remember: the slight inconvenience of wearing custom earplugs, driving with the windows up, or turning down your iPod are insignificant compared to the major inconvenience of hearing loss later in life.
Ready to take your hearing health seriously? Give us a call today.