Hearing loss is not always inescapable, even though it is common. The reality is, the majority of adults will begin to become aware of a change in their hearing as they get older. Even slight changes in your ability to hear will be able to be noticed after years of hearing sound. Just like most things in life, though, prevention is the answer to controlling the extent of that loss and how quickly it advances. There are a few things you can do now that will affect your hearing later on in life. You should carefully consider it now because you can still avoid further hearing loss. You want to keep your hearing from becoming worse, but what can you do?
Understanding Hearing Loss
Recognizing what causes the majority of hearing loss starts with finding out how the ears work. Age-related hearing loss, known medically as presbycusis, affects one in every three people in the U.S. between the ages of 64 and 74. It is a cumulation of damage to the ears over time. Presbycusis starts slowly and then gets worse over time.
The ear canal amplifies waves of sound several times before they reach the inner ear. Chemicals are secreted after being bumped by little hairs, which are in turn shaken by incoming sound waves. These chemicals are translated by the brain into electrical pulses, which are then “heard” by the brain as sound.
All of this vibration eventually causes the hairs to start to break down and malfunction. When these hair cells are destroyed, they are gone for good. The sound is not converted into a language that the brain can comprehend without those little vibrating hairs.
What’s the story behind this hair cell damage? It will happen, to some degree, with normal aging but there are other things which will also contribute. Sound waves come in various strengths, however; that is what you know as volume. The higher the volume, the stronger the sound wave and the bigger the impact on the hair cells.
There are some other considerations besides exposure to loud noise. Additionally, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other chronic ailments will take a toll.
How to Protect Your Hearing
Consistent hearing hygiene is a big part of taking care of your ears over time. At the center of the problem is volume. Sound is much more unsafe when it’s at a louder volume or decibel level. Damage happens at a much lower decibel level then you may think. A noise is too loud if you have to raise your voice to talk over it.
Even just a few loud minutes, let alone continuous exposure, will be enough to have an adverse effect later on. On the plus side, it’s fairly easy to take precautions to protect your hearing when you know you’re going to be exposed to loud sound. Wear hearing protection when you:
- Do something where the noise is loud.
- Ride a motorcycle
- Go to a concert
- Run power equipment
Avoid using accessories made to amplify and isolate sound, also, like headphones or earbuds. A reduced volume should be chosen and use conventional speakers.
Every-Day Noises That Can Become a Problem
Enough noise can be produced, even by common household sounds, to become a hearing hazard over time. Today, appliances and other home devices have noise ratings. Try to use appliances that have a lower noise rating.
Don’t worry about speaking up if the noise is too loud when you’re at a restaurant or party. A restaurant manager might be willing to turn down the background music for you or possibly move you to a different table away from loud speakers or clanging dishes.
Be Noise Conscious at Work
Take the proper steps to safeguard your hearing if your job exposes you to loud sounds. Buy your own ear protection if it is not provided by your employer. There are plenty of products out there that are made to protect you such as:
If you mention your situation, chances are your manager will be willing to listen.
Give up Smoking
Hearing impairment is yet another good reason 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.
Make Sure to Look Closely at Medications That You Take
Some medications are known to cause hearing damage. This is called ototoxicity. Some common culprits include:
- Antidepressants and mood stabilizers
- Certain antibiotics
- Cardiac medication
- Narcotic analgesics
The true list is quite a bit longer than this and consists of prescription medication and over the counter medicines. Check the label of any pain relievers you purchase and use them only when you really need them. If you are not sure about a drug, ask your doctor before taking it.
Take Good Care of Your Health
The common things you should do anyway like eating a healthy diet and exercise are a major part of preventing hearing loss from getting worse, particularly as you get older. If you have high blood pressure, do what you must to manage it like reducing your sodium intake and taking the medication prescribed to you. You have a lower risk of chronic illness, such as diabetes, if you take good care of your body and this leads to lower chances of hearing problems.
Finally, have your hearing tested if you believe that you have hearing loss or if you hear ringing in your ears. Pay close attention to your hearing because you may not even realize that you may need hearing aids. It’s never too late to take care of your ears, so if you notice a change, even a small one, schedule an appointment with a hearing care professional to find out what you can do to keep it from getting even worse.