Hearing loss is not actually inevitable, even though it is quite common. As they grow older, the majority of people will begin to recognize a change in their ability to hear. After listening to sound for many years, you will notice even small changes in your ability to hear. The degree of the loss and how fast it advances is best managed with prevention, which is true with most things in life. There are a few things you can do now that will affect your hearing later on in your life. You should consider it now because you can still protect against further hearing loss. You want to keep your hearing from getting worse, but what can be done?
Understanding Hearing Loss
Learning how the ears work is step one to knowing what causes most hearing loss. Age-related hearing loss, known medically as presbycusis, affects one in three people in the U.S. from 64 to 74. It is an accumulation of damage to the ears over time. Presbycusis starts slowly and then gets worse over time.
The ear canal amplifies sound waves several times before they get to the inner ear. Chemicals are secreted after being bumped by little hairs, which are in turn shaken by inbound sound waves. These chemicals are translated by the brain into electrical pulses, which are then “heard” by the brain as sound.
Breaking down over time, because of the constant vibration, the tiny hairs finally quit. When these hair cells are destroyed, they are gone for good. Without those cells to create the electrical signals, the sound can’t be translated into a language the brain can understand.
What’s behind this hair cell damage? It will happen, to some extent, with aging but there are other factors which will also contribute. The word “volume” makes reference to the power of sound waves. More damage is done to the hair cells if they receive more powerful sound waves, and that means a higher volume of sound.
There are some other factors besides exposure to loud noise. Also, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other chronic diseases will take a toll.
How to Protect Your Hearing
Taking care of your ears over time is dependent on consistent hearing hygiene. At the center of the issue is volume. Sound is measured using decibels and the higher the decibel the more hazardous the noise. Damage is caused at a far lower decibel level then you may think. A noise is too loud if you have to raise your voice to talk over it.
Your hearing can be impaired later on by even a couple of loud minutes and even more so by frequent exposure. Taking precautions when you expect to be exposed to loud sound, luckily, is pretty easy. Use hearing protection when you:
- Ride a motorcycle
- Do something where the noise is loud.
- Go to a concert
- Run power equipment
Headphones, earbuds, and other devices designed to isolate and amplify sound should be avoided. Listen to music the old-fashioned way and at a lesser volume.
Manage The Noise Around You
Enough noise can be produced, even by every-day household sounds, to become a hearing threat over time. Presently, appliances and other home devices come with noise ratings. 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. A restaurant manager might be willing to turn down the background music for you or possibly even move you to a different table away from noisy speakers or clanging dishes.
Pay Attention to Noise Levels While at Work
Take the proper steps to safeguard your hearing if your job subjects you to loud sounds. Purchase your own hearing protection if it’s not provided by your boss. There are numerous products out there that are made to protect you such as:
If you bring up the situation, it’s likely that your manager will be willing to listen.
Hearing impairment is yet another good reason to give up smoking. Studies reveal that smokers are much more likely to get age-related hearing loss. If you are subjected to second-hand smoke this is also true.
Make Certain to Look Closely at Medications That You Take
Ototoxic medications are known to cause damage to your ears. Some typical offenders include:
- Certain antibiotics
- Narcotic analgesics
- Cardiac medication
- Mood stabilizers and antidepressants
There are many other items that go on this list, among them some over the counter and some prescription medications. Check the label of any pain relievers you purchase and use them only when necessary. If you are not sure about a drug, ask your doctor before taking it.
Be Good to Your Body
Exercising and eating right are things you should do for your general health but they are also essential to your hearing health as well. If you have high blood pressure, do what you can to manage it like lowering your sodium consumption and taking the medication prescribed to you. The better you care for your health, the lower your risk of chronic sicknesses that might cost you your hearing over time, like diabetes.
If you have hearing loss or if you have ringing in your ears, get a hearing exam. You could need hearing aids and not even know it so pay close attention to your hearing. It’s never too late to start taking 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 to do to keep it from getting more serious.