Hearing loss is not necessarily inescapable, although it is quite common. The reality is, the majority of adults will start to recognize a change in their hearing as they get older. That change is really the effect of many years of listening to sound. The degree of the loss and how rapidly it progresses is best managed with prevention, which is true with most things in life. Your hearing will be affected later in life by the choices you make now. It’s never too soon to begin or too late to care with regards to your ear health. What can you do to keep your hearing loss from becoming worse?
Get The Facts About Hearing Loss
Learning how the ears work is the first step to knowing what causes most hearing loss. Age-associated hearing loss, known medically as presbycusis, is affecting one in three people in the U.S. between the ages of 64 and 74. It is an accumulation of damage to the ears over the years. 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 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.
The downside to all this movement and oscillation is that the hair cells eventually break down and stop working. Once these hair cells are gone they won’t come back. If there are no tiny hairs, there are no chemicals released to generate the electrical signal which the brain interprets as sound.
So, what causes this deterioration of the hair cells? It can be greatly magnified by several factors but it can be expected, to some degree, as a part of aging. How strong a sound wave is, is known 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 to consider. Chronic illnesses like high blood pressure and diabetes take a toll, as well.
Safeguarding Your Hearing
Good hearing hygiene is an important part of protecting your hearing over time. At the heart of the issue is volume. Sound is measured using decibels and the higher the decibel level the more hazardous the noise. Damage happens at a far lower decibel level then you might realize. If you notice that you have to raise your voice to talk over a noise, it’s 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 affect your hearing later on. Fortunately protecting your ears from expected loud noises is pretty easy. Use hearing protection when you:
- Ride a motorcycle
- Do something where the noise is loud.
- Go to a performance
- Run power tools
Avoid using devices designed to amplify and isolate sound, too, including headphones and earbuds. The old-fashioned way is a safer way to listen to music and that means at a reduced volume.
Control The Noise Around You
Over time, even everyday sounds will become a hearing threat. Presently, appliances and other home devices come with noise ratings. The lower the noise rating the better.
If the noise is too loud while you are out at a party or restaurant, don’t be afraid to speak up. The party’s host, 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 subjects you to loud noises like equipment, then do something about it. If your company doesn’t provide hearing protection, invest in your own. Here are some products that can protect your hearing:
If you mention your concern, it’s likely that your manager will be willing to listen.
There are lots of good reasons to stop smoking and you can add hearing loss to the long list. Studies demonstrate that smokers are much more likely to experience age-related hearing loss. This is true if you are subjected to second-hand smoke, also.
Be Certain to Look Closely at Medications That You Take
Ototoxic medications are known to cause damage to your ears. A few typical culprits include:
- Narcotic analgesics
- Cardiac medication
- Mood stabilizers and antidepressants
- Certain antibiotics
This list is a combination of over-the-counter products and prescription medications and it doesn’t cover all of them. Only use pain relievers when you really need them and be sure to check all of the labels. If you are unsure about a drug, ask your doctor before taking it.
Be Good to Your Body
To prevent hearing loss it’s particularly important, as you get older, to do the normal things that keep you healthy, like eating well and exercising. If you have high blood pressure, do what you must to manage it like lowering your salt consumption and taking the medication prescribed to you. You have a lower risk of chronic health problems, such as diabetes, if you take good care of your body and this leads to lower chances of hearing loss.
If you have hearing loss or if you hear ringing in your ears, get a hearing exam. You may need hearing aids and not even know it so pay attention to your hearing. It’s never too late to take care of your hearing, so if you notice a 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.