Hearing loss is not actually inevitable, despite the fact that it is quite common. The reality is, the majority of adults will begin to notice a change in their hearing as they get older. After listening to sound for many years, you will notice even small changes in your ability to hear. The extent of the loss and how fast it progresses is best managed with prevention, as is true with most things in life. Your hearing will be impacted later on in life by the things you decide to do now. You should carefully consider it sooner than later because you can still avoid further hearing loss. You really want to keep your hearing from becoming worse, but what can be done?
Learn About Your Hearing Loss
Understanding what causes most hearing loss starts with learning how the ears actually work. Age-related hearing loss, medically known as presbycusis, is affecting one in three people in America from 64 to 74. It is an accumulation of damage to the ears over time. Presbycusis is slight at first and then gets worse over time.
The ear canal amplifies sound waves several times before they make it to the inner ear. Chemicals are discharged after being bumped into by little hairs, which are in turn shaken by incoming waves of sound. These chemicals are interpreted by the brain as electrical pulses, which are then “heard” by the brain as sound.
Failing over time, due to the constant vibration, the tiny hairs eventually quit. When these hair cells are destroyed, they are gone for good. Without those cells to generate the electrical signals, the sound can’t be translated into a language the brain can understand.
How exactly do these hair cells get damaged? It will happen, to some extent, with normal aging but there are other factors which will also contribute. The word “volume” refers to the strength of sound waves. 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 considerations apart from exposure to loud noise. Additionally, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other chronic diseases will have a strong effect.
How to Protect Your Hearing
Good hearing hygiene is a big part of taking care of your hearing over time. Sound volume presents the biggest problem. Sound is a lot more dangerous when it’s at a louder volume or decibel level. It doesn’t have to be as loud as you might think to lead to hearing damage. If you find that you have to raise your voice to talk over a noise, it’s too loud.
Your hearing will be impaired later on by even a couple of loud minutes and even more so by continued exposure. Fortunately protecting your hearing from expected loud noises is pretty easy. Use hearing protection when you:
- Run power equipment
- Go to a performance
- Ride a motorcycle
- Participate in loud activities.
Headphones, earbuds, and other accessories made to isolate and amplify sound should be avoided. A lower volume should be chosen and use regular speakers.
Day-to-Day Noises That Can be a Problem
Enough noise can be produced, even by common household sounds, to become a hearing hazard over time. When you get an appliance for your house, check the noise rating of the product. The lower the noise rating the better.
Don’t worry about speaking up if the noise gets too loud when you are at a restaurant or party. The host of the party, or maybe even the restaurant manager might be willing to help accommodate for your issue.
Be Aware of Noise Levels at Work
If your job exposes you to loud sounds like equipment, you should do something about it. If your manager doesn’t provide hearing protection, get your own. Here are some products that will protect your ears:
The chances are good that if you bring up the concern, your boss will listen.
Give up Smoking
Hearing damage is yet another good reason to give up smoking. Studies reveal that smokers are much more likely to experience age-related hearing loss. If you are exposed to second-hand smoke this is also true.
Check And Double Check Your Medications
Some medications are known to cause hearing damage. This is called ototoxicity. Some typical offenders include:
- Certain antibiotics
- Mood stabilizers and antidepressants
- Cardiac medication
- Narcotic analgesics
This list is a mix of over-the-counter products and prescription medications and it’s not even all of them. Read the label of any pain relievers you purchase and take them only when you really need them. Ask your doctor first if you are unsure.
Take Good Care of Your Health
To slow down hearing loss it’s especially important, as you get older, to do the normal things that keep you healthy, like eating right and getting regular exercise. Cut down on the amount of salt you eat and take your medications to deal with your high blood pressure. The better you take care of your health, the lower your chances of chronic health problems that could cost you your hearing over time, like diabetes.
If you think you have hearing loss or if you have ringing in your ears, get your hearing tested. The sooner you recognize you have a problem, the sooner you can do something about it, like getting hearing aids. It’s never too late to take care of your ears, 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 more serious.