Hearing loss is not actually inescapable, although it is quite common. As they age, the vast majority of people will begin to take note of a change in their ability to hear. That change is really the effect of years and years of listening to sound. The extent of the loss and how rapidly it advances is best managed with prevention, which is true with most things in life. Your hearing can be affected later on in your life by the things you decide to do now. You should consider it sooner than later because you can still avoid further hearing loss. What steps can you take now to safeguard your hearing?
Get The Facts About Hearing Loss
Understanding what causes most hearing loss begins with learning how the ears actually work. Age-related hearing loss, known medically as presbycusis, affects one in every three people in this country 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 goes into the ear as waves that are amplified a number of times before they finally reach the inner ear. Sound waves move tiny hairs that bump against chemical releasing structures. These chemicals are transformed into electrical signals that the brain interprets as sound.
All of this shaking eventually causes the hairs to start to break down and malfunction. When these hair cells are destroyed, they are gone forever. If there are no tiny hairs, there are no chemicals released to generate the electrical impulse which the brain translates as sound.
How exactly do these hair cells become damaged? There are numerous contributing variables such as normal aging. The term “volume” makes reference to the strength of sound waves. If the sound is at a higher volume, then the force of the sound wave is greater, and the hair cells take more damage.
There are some other factors apart from exposure to loud noise. Chronic diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes take a toll, as well.
How to Protect Your Hearing
You need to rely on strong hearing hygiene to protect your ears over time. Sound volume presents the biggest problem. When sound is at a higher volume or decibel level, it is exponentially more detrimental to the ears. Damage happens at a much lower decibel level then you might realize. 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 few loud minutes and even more so by constant exposure. The good news is protecting your ears from expected loud noises is pretty easy. Wear hearing protection when you:
- Run power tools
- Go to a concert
- Do something where the noise is loud.
- Ride a motorcycle
Headphones, earbuds, and other accessories made to isolate and amplify sound should be avoided. A lower volume should be chosen and use conventional speakers.
Every-Day Noises That Can be a Problem
Enough noise can be produced, even by common household sounds, to become a hearing hazard over time. The noise rating should be checked before you buy a new appliance. The lower the rating the better.
If the noise gets too loud when you are out at a party or restaurant, don’t be afraid to speak up. The party’s host, or perhaps 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 sounds like equipment, you need to do something about it. Buy your own ear protection if it’s not provided by your boss. Here are several products that will protect your ears:
The chances are good that if you bring up the concern, your employer will listen.
Give up Smoking
Put hearing health on the list of reasons you shouldn’t smoke. Studies reveal that cigarette smokers are much more likely to experience age-related hearing loss. Second-hand smoke can also speed up hearing loss.
Make Sure to Look Closely at Medications That You Take
Some medications are ototoxic, meaning they damage your hearing. A few common culprits include:
- Antidepressants and mood stabilizers
- Certain antibiotics
- Narcotic analgesics
- Cardiac medication
There are many other examples that go on this list, including some over the counter and some prescription medications. Only take pain relievers if you really need them and make sure you read all of the labels. If you are uncertain about a drug, ask your doctor before taking it.
Take Good Care of Your Body
To prevent hearing loss it’s especially important, as you get older, to do the normal things that keep you healthy, like eating right and exercising. Cut down on the amount of salt you eat and take your medications to manage your high blood pressure. The better you care for your health, the lower your chances of chronic sicknesses that might cost you your hearing over time, like diabetes.
If you believe you hear ringing in your ears or if you have some hearing loss, get your hearing tested. The sooner you realize 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 ears, so if you notice any change, even a small one, schedule an appointment with a hearing care professional to find out what to do to keep it from getting even worse.