Hearing loss is normal for the majority of people, but is it inevitable? As they age, most adults will begin to recognize a change in their hearing. That change is simply the effect of years and years of listening to sound. Prevention is the best method of controlling the extent of the loss and how quickly it progresses, which is true of most things in life. Later in life, how bad your hearing loss is will be determined by the decisions you make now. It’s never too soon to start or too late to care when it comes to hearing health. You want to keep your hearing from getting worse, but what can you do?
Learn About Your Hearing Loss
It begins with understanding how the ears work and what causes most hearing loss. Age-related hearing loss, known medically as presbycusis, impacts one in three people in the U.S. from 64 to 74. It is an accumulation of damage to the ears over the years. Presbycusis starts slowly and then gets worse over time.
The ear canal amplifies waves of sound several times before they make it to the inner ear. Chemicals are released after being bumped by little hairs, which are in turn shaken by inbound sound waves. These chemicals are translated by the brain into electrical pulses, which are then “heard” by the brain as sound.
Breaking down over time, due to the constant vibration, the tiny hairs finally quit working. When these hair cells are destroyed, they are gone for good. If you lose those little hairs, there are no chemicals released to produce the electrical impulse which the brain translates as sound.
What’s the story behind this hair cell damage? There are a lot of contributing variables including ordinary aging. The term “volume” makes reference to the power of sound waves. More damage is done to the hair cells if they receive stronger sound waves, and that means a higher volume of sound.
Loud sound is certainly a factor but there are others too. Chronic sicknesses such as high blood pressure and diabetes have an affect, as well.
How to Protect Your Hearing
You should rely on consistent hearing hygiene to protect your ears over time. At the center of the issue is volume. Sound is measured using decibels and the higher the decibel level the more dangerous the noise. You may believe that it takes a very high volume to cause damage, but it doesn’t. A noise is too loud if you have to raise your voice to talk over it.
Your hearing can be impaired later on by even a few loud minutes and even more so by continued exposure. Taking precautions when you expect to be exposed to loud sound, fortunately, is pretty easy. Use hearing protection when you:
- Go to a concert
- Do something where the noise is loud.
- Run power tools
- Ride a motorcycle
Headphones, earbuds, and other devices made to isolate and amplify sound should be avoided. A lower volume should be chosen and use regular speakers.
Control The Noise Around You
Enough noise can be produced, even by every-day household sounds, to become a hearing threat over time. The noise rating should be checked before you invest in a new appliance. Try to use appliances that have a lower noise rating.
If the noise gets too loud while you are out at a party or restaurant, don’t be scared to speak up. The host of the party, or possibly even the restaurant manager may be willing to help accommodate for your issue.
Be Aware of Noise Levels at Work
If your job subjects you to loud sounds like equipment, you need to do something about it. Get your own ear protection if it’s not provided by your boss. There are plenty of products out there that will protect you such as:
If you bring up the situation, it’s likely that your manager will listen.
Put hearing health on the long list of reasons you shouldn’t smoke. Studies demonstrate that smokers are much more likely to experience age-related hearing loss. If you are exposed to second-hand smoke this is also true.
Make Certain to Look Closely at Medications That You Take
Ototoxic medications are known to cause damage to your ears. A few common offenders include:
- Certain antibiotics
- Narcotic analgesics
- Antidepressants and mood stabilizers
- Cardiac medication
There are many other items that go on this list, among them some over the counter and some prescription medications. Only take pain relievers when you really need them and be sure to read all of the labels. Ask your doctor first if you are uncertain.
Take Good Care of Your Body
To prevent hearing loss it’s particularly important, as you get older, to do the normal things that keep you healthy, like eating right and exercising. Decrease the amount of salt you consume and take your medications to deal with your high blood pressure. The better you care for your health, the lower your chances of chronic sicknesses that could cost you your hearing over time, like diabetes.
If you believe that you hear ringing in your ears or if you have some hearing loss, have your hearing checked. You could need hearing aids and not even know it so pay close attention to your hearing. It’s never too late to start taking care of your ears, so if you notice any change, even a small one, schedule an appointment with a hearing care professional to find out what you can do to stop it from getting more serious.