Hearing loss is not always inevitable, although it is quite common. The reality is, the majority of adults will start to detect a change in their hearing as they age. Even slight differences in your ability to hear 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 rapidly it progresses, which is true of most things in life. There are some things you can do now that will affect your hearing later in life. It’s never too early to start or too late to care when it comes to ear health. You really want to keep your hearing from getting worse, but what can you do?
Learn About Your Hearing Loss
Understanding what causes the majority of hearing loss begins with finding out how the ears work. Age-associated hearing loss, medically known as presbycusis, affects one in three people in this country between the ages of 64 and 74. It is a cumulation 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 reach the inner ear. Once there, the sound shakes tiny hairs cells, causing them to bump into structures that release chemicals to create an electrical message which the brain interprets as sound.
The negative aspect to all this shaking and oscillation is the hair cells ultimately break down and stop working. When these hair cells are destroyed, they are gone for good. The sound is not translated into a language that the brain can comprehend without those little vibrating hairs.
So, what leads to this deterioration of the hair cells? It will happen, to some extent, with normal aging but there are other things which will also contribute. How strong a sound wave is, is known 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.
Loud sound is surely a factor but there are others too. Additionally, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other chronic illnesses will have a strong effect.
Safeguarding Your Hearing
You should rely on strong hearing hygiene to take care of your ears over time. Volume is at the root of the issue. Sound is a lot more dangerous 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.
Even just a few loud minutes, let alone frequent exposure, will be enough to have an adverse effect later on. Taking precautions when you expect to be subjected to loud sound, fortunately, is pretty easy. Wear hearing protection when you:
- Go to a concert
- Participate in loud activities.
- Run power equipment
- Ride a motorcycle
Headphones, earbuds, and other accessories designed to isolate and amplify sound should be avoided. The old-fashioned way is a less dangerous way to listen to music and that means at a lower volume.
Day-to-Day Noises That Can Become an Issue
Even the things around your home can generate enough noise to become an issue over time. The noise rating should be taken into consideration before you get a new appliance. It’s much better to use devices with lower noise ratings.
If the noise gets too loud while you are out at a party or restaurant, don’t be afraid to let someone know. A restaurant manager may be willing to turn down the background music for you or maybe even move you to another table away from noisy speakers or clanging dishes.
Pay Attention to Noise Levels at Work
If your job subjects you to loud sounds like equipment, then do something about it. If your manager doesn’t provide hearing protection, buy your own. Here are a few products that will protect your hearing:
There’s a good chance that if you bring up the concern, your employer will listen.
Give up Smoking
Hearing impairment is yet another good reason to quit smoking. Studies reveal that cigarette smokers are much more likely to get age-related hearing loss. If you are exposed to second-hand smoke this is also true.
Look Twice at Medications
Some medications are known to cause hearing damage. This is called ototoxicity. Some common culprits include:
- Cardiac medication
- Certain antibiotics
- Mood stabilizers and antidepressants
- Narcotic analgesics
The complete list is quite a bit longer than this and consists of prescription medication and over the counter products. Check the label of any pain relievers you purchase and take them only when necessary. Consult your doctor first if you are unsure.
Be Kind to Your Body
Regular exercise and a good diet are things you should do anyway but they are also important to your hearing health. If you have high blood pressure, do what you can to manage it like reducing your sodium intake and taking the medication prescribed to you. You have a lower risk of chronic health problems, such as diabetes, if you take good care of your body and this leads to lower chances of hearing loss.
Lastly, have your hearing tested if you think you may have hearing loss or if you hear ringing in your ears. The sooner you realize you have a problem, the sooner you can do something about it, like getting hearing aids. If you observe any changes in your hearing, schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist. It’s not too late to take care of your hearing.