The strange part of hearing loss is that we don’t seem to start appreciating our favorite sounds until after we’ve lost the ability to clearly hear them. We don’t pause to give thought to, for instance, how much we enjoy a good conversation with a friend until we have to recurrently 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 tied 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 dedicate a good deal 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 gradually develops as we grow older. Combined with presbycusis, there is also some evidence suggesting that genetics plays a role, and that some of us are more susceptible to hearing loss than others.
While there’s not much you can do to stop the process of getting older or tweak your genes, you can protect against noise-induced hearing loss from the other causes identified below. And keep in mind that age-related hearing loss is considerably more challenging to treat if exacerbated by preventable damage.
Consistent exposure to sound volumes above 85 decibels can lead to permanent hearing loss, which is not-so-good news if you happen to drive a convertible. New research reveals that driving a convertible with the top down at high speeds yields an average sound volume of 90 decibels. Motorcyclists face even louder 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 look for ways to reduce your cumulative noise exposure during travel. If you own 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, think about purchasing noise-canceling headphones.
3. Going to work
As reported by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), 22 million workers in the US are exposed to potentially hazardous noise volumes at work. The highest risk occupations are in manufacturing, farming, construction, the military, and the music industry.
The last thing you want is to spend your total working life accumulating hearing loss that will prevent you from making the most of your retirement. Speak with your supervisor about its hearing protection plan, and if they don’t have one, consult with your local hearing specialist for personalized 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 required another reason to quit. Antibiotics, potent 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: try to avoid consuming ototoxic drugs or medications unless completely necessary. Consult with your doctor if you have any questions.
5. Listening to music
85 is turning out to be quite an inconvenient number. Almost all of our favorite activities produce decibel levels just over this threshold, and anything over 85 decibels can cause hearing loss. If the threshold were just a little higher, say 100 decibels, we wouldn’t have to worry about it so much.
But 85 it is. And portable music players at maximum volume reach more than 100 decibels while rock shows reach more than 110. The solution is simple: turn down your iPod, wear earplugs at concerts, and reduce your exposure time to the music.
6. Getting sick or injured
Certain conditions, 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 balanced diet, and continual tracking of blood sugar levels is vital. And if you drive a motorcycle, using a helmet will help prevent traumatic head injuries.
Talk to Your Hearing Specialist
While there are many ways to lose your hearing, a few simple lifestyle modifications can help you sustain your hearing for life. Keep in mind: the minor hassle of wearing custom earplugs, driving with the windows up, or turning down your iPod are small compared to the major inconvenience of hearing loss later in life.
Ready to take your hearing health seriously? Give us a call today.