Loss of hearing is common for most people, but does it have to be that way? The fact is, the majority of people will begin to detect a change in their hearing as they get older. After listening to sound for years, you will start to notice even slight changes in your ability to hear. Prevention is the best means of managing the extent of the loss and how quickly it progresses, which is true of most things in life. Your hearing will be affected later in life by the choices you make now. You should carefully consider it sooner than later because you can still protect against further hearing loss. What steps can you take right now to protect your hearing?
Get The Facts About Hearing Loss
It starts with understanding how hearing works and what causes most loss of hearing. Age-associated hearing loss, medically known as presbycusis, impacts one in 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 progressively worse.
Sound goes into the ear as waves that are amplified a number of times before they get to the inner ear. Sound waves move very little hairs which bump into chemical releasing structures. These chemicals are transformed into electrical signals which the brain interprets as sound.
The negative aspect to all this shaking and bumping is the hair cells eventually break down and stop working. Once these hair cells are lost they won’t grow back. If there are no tiny hairs, there are no chemicals released to create the electrical signal which the brain interprets as sound.
What’s the story behind this hair cell damage? It can be greatly increased by several factors but it can be anticipated, to some degree, as a part of aging. Sound waves come in countless strengths, though; that is what’s known as volume. If the sound is at a higher volume, then the strength of the sound wave is greater, and the hair cells take more damage.
There are some other factors aside from exposure to loud noise. Additionally, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other chronic illnesses will have a strong effect.
How to Protect Your Hearing
Safeguarding your hearing over time is dependent on good hearing hygiene. At the center of the issue is volume. Sound is measured using decibels and the higher the decibel the more damaging the noise. It doesn’t have to be as loud as you may think to cause damage. If you find that you have to raise your voice to talk over a noise, it’s too loud.
Even just a few loud minutes, not to mention frequent exposure, will be enough to cause an adverse effect later on. On the plus side, it’s quite easy to take safety measures to protect your hearing when you know you’re going to be around loud sound. Use hearing protection when you:
- Ride a motorcycle
- Go to a performance
- Run power equipment
- Do something where the noise is loud.
Avoid using devices made to amplify and isolate sound, too, including headphones and earbuds. The old-fashioned way is a less dangerous way to listen to music and that means at a reduced volume.
Manage The Noise Around You
Even the items around your home can make enough noise to be a problem over time. The noise rating should be taken into consideration before you get a new appliance. It’s much better to use equipment with lower noise ratings.
If the noise gets too loud when you are out at a party or restaurant, don’t be scared to let someone know. The host of the party, or perhaps even the restaurant manager might be willing to help accommodate for your issue.
Pay Attention to Noise Levels While at Work
At work, protect your ears if your job is loud. If your employer doesn’t provide hearing protection, get your own. Here are some products that will protect your hearing:
There’s a good chance that if you bring up the concern, your employer will listen.
Hearing impairment is yet another good reason to quit smoking. Studies show that smokers are much more likely to get age-related hearing loss. If you are exposed to second-hand smoke this is also true.
Double Check Medications
Ototoxic medications are known to cause damage to your ears. Several common culprits include:
- Narcotic analgesics
- Mood stabilizers and antidepressants
- Cardiac medication
- Certain antibiotics
The true list is quite a bit longer than this and includes prescription medication and over the counter products. Only take pain relievers if you really need them and make sure you read all of the labels. If you are uncertain about a drug, ask your doctor before taking it.
Treat Your Body Well
Regular exercise and a good diet are things you should do for your general health but they are also important to your hearing health. Cut down on the amount of salt you consume and take your medications to deal with your high blood pressure. The better you care for your body, the lower your risk of chronic sicknesses that might cost you your hearing over time, like diabetes.
Lastly, have your hearing examined if you believe that you may have hearing loss or if you hear ringing in your ears. You may need hearing aids and not even know it so pay attention to your hearing. It’s never too late to start taking care of your hearing, 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.