The ironic part of hearing loss is that we don’t tend to start appreciating our favorite sounds until after we’ve lost the capacity to clearly hear them. We don’t stop to give thought to, for example, how much we value a good conversation with a close friend until we have to continually 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—regardless of whether you realize it or not. And if you wait until after you’ve lost your hearing to come to this awareness, you’re going to invest a tremendous amount of time and effort trying to get it back.
So how can you defend 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 occurs as we grow old. Combined with presbycusis, there is also some evidence suggesting that genetics plays a role, and that some of us are more vulnerable to hearing loss than others.
While there’s not much you can do to avoid the aging process or tweak your genes, you can protect against noise-induced hearing loss from the other sources mentioned below. And keep in mind that age-related hearing loss is much more complicated to treat if worsened by avoidable damage.
Regular direct exposure to sound levels 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 excessive speeds yields an average sound volume level of 90 decibels. Motorcyclists face even louder sounds and those who take the subway are at risk as well.
So does everyone either have to give up travel or live with permanent earplugs? Not exactly, but you should certainly find ways to reduce your collective 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 ride the subway, think about purchasing noise-canceling headsets.
3. Going to work
As reported by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), 22 million employees in the US are exposed to potentially hazardous noise levels at work. The highest risk professions are in manufacturing, farming, construction, the military, and the music industry.
The last thing you need is to spend your entire working life accumulating hearing loss that will keep you from taking pleasure in your retirement. Discuss with your employer about its hearing protection plan, and if they do not have one, speak with your local hearing specialist for customized solutions.
4. Taking drugs and smoking
Smoking impedes blood flow, on top of other things, which may enhance your risk of developing hearing loss—if you really needed another reason to quit. Antibiotics, strong 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 using ototoxic drugs or medications unless absolutely necessary. Talk to 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 limit, and anything over 85 decibels can cause hearing loss. If the threshold were just slightly higher, say 100 decibels, we wouldn’t have to worry about it so much.
But 85 it is. And portable mp3 players at maximum volume reach more than 100 decibels while rock concerts reach more than 110. The solution is simple: turn down your iPod, wear earplugs at live shows, and reduce your time of exposure to the music.
6. Getting sick or injured
Specific 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 regular monitoring of glucose levels is vital. And if you drive a motorcycle, wearing a helmet will help prevent traumatic head injuries.
Talk to Your Hearing Specialist
While there are many ways to lose your hearing, a few basic lifestyle alterations can help you maintain your hearing for life. Remember: the minimal hassle of wearing custom earplugs, driving with the windows up, or turning down your iPod are slight compared to the major inconvenience of hearing loss later in life.
Ready to take your hearing health seriously? Give us a call today.