The ironic part of hearing loss is that we don’t seem to begin appreciating our favorite sounds until after we’ve lost the ability to clearly hear them. We don’t stop to think about, for instance, how much we appreciate a good conversation with a close friend until we have to repeatedly ask them to repeat themselves.
Whether it’s your favorite Mozart album or the songs of a Bluejay first thing in the morning, your quality of life is directly connected 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 trying to get it back.
So how can you retain 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 progressively arises as we grow old. Combined with presbycusis, there is also some evidence suggesting that genetics plays a role, and that some of us are more vulnerable to hearing loss than others.
While there’s not much you can do to halt the process of getting older or tweak your genetics, you can avoid noise-induced hearing loss from the other sources described below. And keep in mind that age-related hearing loss is significantly more complicated to treat if aggravated by avoidable damage.
Continual direct exposure to sound volumes above 85 decibels can result in permanent hearing loss, which is not-so-good news if you happen to drive a convertible. New research suggests 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 take the subway are at risk as well.
So does everybody either have to give up travel or live with permanent earplugs? Not exactly, but you should find ways to limit your cumulative noise exposure during travel. If you drive a convertible, roll up your windows and drive a little slower; if you ride a motorcycle, wear a helmet and think about earplugs; and if you take the subway, give some thought to buying noise-canceling headphones.
3. Going to work
As indicated by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), 22 million employees in the US are subjected to potentially hazardous noise volumes at work. The highest risk professions are in manufacturing, farming, construction, the military, and the music industry.
The last thing you want is to spend your entire work life accumulating hearing loss that will prevent you from making the most of your retirement. Get in touch with your company about its hearing protection plan, and if they do not have one, contact your local hearing specialist for custom solutions.
4. Taking drugs and smoking
Smoking interferes with blood flow, among other things, which could increase your risk of developing hearing loss—if you really needed another reason to quit. Antibiotics, strong pain medications, and a large number of other drugs are “ototoxic,” or toxic to the cells of hearing. In fact, there are more than 200 known ototoxic medications.
The bottom line: avoid using ototoxic drugs or medications unless absolutely necessary. Speak to your doctor if you have any questions.
5. Listening to music
85 is turning out to be quite an inconvenient number. A large number of our favorite activities generate decibel levels just over this threshold, and anything over 85 decibels can cause 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 max volume reach more than 100 decibels while rock concerts reach more than 110. The solution is simple: turn down your iPod, wear earplugs at live shows, and limit your time of exposure to the music.
6. Getting sick or injured
Specific disorders, such as diabetes, together with any traumatic head injuries, places you at greater risk of developing hearing loss. If you have diabetes, frequent exercise, a healthy diet, and frequent tracking of glucose levels is crucial. And if you ride a motorcycle, using a helmet will help prevent traumatic head injuries.
Talk to Your Hearing Specialist
Although there are several ways to lose your hearing, a few basic lifestyle adjustments can help you safeguard your hearing for life. Keep in mind: the mild hassle of wearing custom earplugs, driving with the windows up, or turning down your iPod are slight in comparison to the substantial inconvenience of hearing loss later in life.
Ready to take your hearing health seriously? Give us a call today.