Hearing loss is not necessarily unavoidable, although it is common. As they begin to grow older, most adults will notice a change in their hearing. That change is just the effect of a lot of years of listening to sound. Prevention is the best means of controlling the extent of the loss and how quickly it advances, which is the case with most things in life. There are some things you can do now that will impact your hearing later on in life. You should think about it now because you can still lessen further hearing loss. What are the steps you can take now to safeguard your hearing?
Understanding Hearing Loss
Understanding what causes the majority of hearing loss begins with learning how the ears actually work. Age-related hearing loss, known medically as presbycusis, impacts one in every three people in the U.S. between the ages of 64 and 74. It is an accumulation of damage to the ears over time. Presbycusis is slight at first and then gets worse over time.
Sound goes into the ear in waves that are amplified a number of times before they finally reach the inner ear. Once there, the sound shakes tiny hairs cells, causing them to bump structures which release chemicals to create an electrical message which the brain interprets as sound.
All of this vibration eventually causes the hairs to start to break down and misfunction. 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 can be considerably increased by several factors but it can be expected, to varying degrees, with aging. How powerful a sound wave is, is known as “volume”. The higher the volume, the stronger the sound wave and the bigger the injury to the hair cells.
Exposure to loud noise isn’t the only factor. Chronic diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes take a toll, as well.
How to Take Care Of Your Hearing
Safeguarding your hearing over time depends on consistent hearing hygiene. At the heart of the issue is volume. Sound is measured in decibels and the higher the decibel the more dangerous the noise. It doesn’t take as much as you might think to lead to hearing damage. A noise is too loud if you have to raise your voice to talk over it.
Your hearing can be impacted later on by even a couple of loud minutes and even more so by frequent exposure. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to take safety measures to protect your ears when you expect to be exposed to loud sound. Wear hearing protection when you:
- Go to a concert
- Run power equipment
- Do something where the noise is loud.
- Ride a motorcycle
Headphones, earbuds, and other devices made to isolate and amplify sound should be avoided. Listen to music the old-fashioned way and at a lower volume.
Control The Noise Around You
Over time, even everyday sounds can become a hearing hazard. When you get an appliance for your house, check the noise rating of the product. Try to use appliances that have a lower noise rating.
When you are out at a crowded restaurant or party, don’t be scared to speak up if the noise is too loud. A restaurant manager may be willing to turn down the background music for you or even move you to a different table away from noisy speakers or clanging dishes.
Pay Attention to Noise Levels While at Work
If your job exposes you to loud noises like equipment, you need to do something about it. Invest in your own ear protection if it’s not provided by your manager. There are lots of products out there that will protect you such as:
If you bring up the situation, 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 get age-related hearing loss. Second-hand smoke can also speed up hearing loss.
Double Check Medications
Some medications are known to cause hearing damage. This is called ototoxicity. A few typical offenders include:
- Certain antibiotics
- Antidepressants and mood stabilizers
- Narcotic analgesics
- Cardiac medication
There are many other items that go on this list, among them some over the counter and some prescription medications. Read the label of any pain relievers you buy and take them only when necessary. If you are uncertain about a drug, ask your doctor before taking it.
Treat Your Body Well
Exercising and eating right are things you should do anyway but they are also important to your hearing health as well. If you have high blood pressure, do what you must to manage it like reducing your sodium intake and taking the medication prescribed to you. The better you care for your health, the lower your chances of chronic illnesses that could cost you your hearing over time, like diabetes.
If you have hearing loss or if you have ringing in your ears, get a hearing test. Pay close attention to your hearing because you might not even recognize that you may need hearing aids. If you notice any changes in your hearing, schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist. It’s never too late to take care of your hearing.