Loss of hearing is normal for the majority of people, but is it inevitable? The fact is, the majority of people will start to recognize a change in their hearing as they age. That change is simply the effect of many years of listening to sound. As with most things in life, though, prevention is the answer to regulating the extent of that loss and how quickly it advances. Your hearing will be affected later in your life by the choices you make now. In terms of your hearing health, it’s never too late to care or too early to start. You really want to keep your hearing from getting worse, but what can be done?
Get The Facts About Hearing Loss
Understanding how the ears work is step one to understanding what causes most hearing loss. Age-related hearing loss, medically known as presbycusis, affects 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 is slight at first and then gets progressively worse.
Sound waves reach the inner ear only after having been amplified several times by the ear canal. Sound waves jiggle little hairs which bump into chemical releasing structures. These chemicals are transformed into electrical signals which the brain interprets as sound.
All of this vibration inevitably causes the hairs to begin to break down and misfunction. These hair cells don’t heal themselves, either, so once they’re gone, they don’t come back. If you lose those tiny 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 destruction? It can be greatly increased by several factors but it can be expected, to varying degrees, as a part of aging. Sound waves come in countless strengths, though; that is what you know as volume. If the sound is at a higher volume, then the power of the sound wave is greater, and the hair cells take more damage.
Exposure to loud noise isn’t the only factor. Chronic sicknesses like high blood pressure and diabetes have an affect, as well.
How to Take Care Of Your Hearing
Taking care of your ears over time is dependent on good hearing hygiene. Sound volume presents the biggest problem. When sound is at a higher volume or decibel level, it is exponentially more damaging to the ears. You may believe that it takes a very loud volume to cause damage, but it actually doesn’t. You shouldn’t have to raise your voice to talk over another sound. If you do that sound is too loud.
Everyone has to cope with the occasional loud noise but frequent exposure or even just a few loud minutes at a time is enough to impact your hearing later on. The good news is protecting your hearing from expected loud noises is fairly easy. Wear hearing protection when you:
- Participate in loud activities.
- Ride a motorcycle
- Go to a concert
- Run power equipment
Avoid using devices made to amplify and isolate sound, too, including headphones or earbuds. The old-fashioned way is a safer way to partake of music and that means at a reduced volume.
Manage The Noise Around You
Enough noise can be produced, even by every-day household sounds, to become a hearing threat over time. Nowadays, appliances and other home devices have noise ratings. It’s far better to use devices with lower noise ratings.
Don’t be afraid to speak up if the noise gets too loud when you are at a restaurant or party. A restaurant manager may be willing to turn down the background music for you or even move you to a different table away from loud speakers or clanging dishes.
Be Aware of Noise Levels at Work
When you’re working, protect your ears if your work-place is loud. If your boss doesn’t provide hearing protection, buy your own. There are lots of products out there that are made to protect you such as:
The chances are good that if you bring up the concern, your manager will listen.
There are lots of good reasons to quit smoking and you can add hearing loss to the list. Studies reveal that smokers are much more likely to experience age-related hearing loss. If you are subjected to second-hand smoke this is also true.
Double Check Medications
Ototoxic medications are known to cause damage to your ears. Some common culprits include:
- Antidepressants and mood stabilizers
- Cardiac medication
- Certain antibiotics
- Narcotic analgesics
There are many other examples that go on this list, including some over the counter and some prescription medications. Read the label of any pain relievers you purchase and use them only when necessary. Consult your doctor first if you are uncertain.
Treat Your Body Well
The little things you should do anyway like eating a healthy diet and exercise are an essential part of preventing hearing loss from getting worse, especially as you get older. If you have high blood pressure, do what you can to manage it like decreasing your sodium consumption and taking the medication prescribed to you. The better you take care of your health, the lower your risk of chronic sicknesses that might cost you your hearing over time, like diabetes.
If you think you hear ringing in your ears or if you have some hearing loss, have your hearing examined. The sooner you know there is a problem, the sooner you can do something about it, such as getting hearing aids. 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 keep it from getting worse.