Hearing loss is not always unavoidable, despite the fact that it is common. As they get older, the majority of adults will start to notice a change in their ability to hear. Even small differences in your hearing ability will be able to be noticed after years of hearing sound. Just like most things in life, though, prevention is the key to managing the extent of that loss and how fast it progresses. Later in your life, how bad your hearing loss is will depend on the choices you make now. Concerning your hearing health, it’s never too late to care or too early to begin. You really want to keep your hearing from becoming worse, but what can be done?
Learn About Your Hearing Loss
Knowing what causes most hearing loss starts with finding out how the ears work. Age-associated hearing loss, known medically as presbycusis, impacts one in every three people in America 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 worse over time.
The ear canal amplifies waves of sound several times before they reach the inner ear. As it arrives, the sound shakes tiny hairs cells, causing them to bump structures which release chemicals to create an electrical message which the brain translates into sound.
Malfunctioning over time, because of the constant vibration, the tiny hairs eventually quit working. Once these hair cells are gone they won’t grow back. Without those cells to generate the electrical impulses, the sound can’t be translated into a language the brain can understand.
So, what causes this deterioration of the hair cells? It will happen, to a point, with normal aging but there are other factors which will also contribute. Sound waves come in numerous strengths, though; that is what you know as volume. More damage is done to the hair cells if they receive stronger sound waves, and that means a higher volume of sound.
Direct exposure to loud noise isn’t the only factor. Chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure and diabetes take a toll, as well.
How to Protect Your Hearing
Consistent hearing hygiene is an important part of taking care of your ears over time. At the center of the problem is volume. Sound is much more hazardous when it’s at a higher volume or decibel level. It doesn’t have to be as loud as you may think to cause hearing damage. A noise is too loud if you have to raise your voice to talk over it.
Everyone deals with the random loud noise but continuous exposure or even just a couple of loud minutes at a time is sufficient to impact your hearing later on. Luckily, it’s quite easy to take safety measures to protect your hearing when you know you’re going to be around loud sound. Wear hearing protection when you:
- Participate in loud activities.
- Go to a performance
- Run power equipment
- Ride a motorcycle
Avoid using accessories designed to amplify and isolate sound, too, like headphones or earbuds. Listen to music the old-fashioned way and at a lower volume.
Day-to-Day Noises That Can Become a Problem
Enough noise can be produced, even by every-day household sounds, to become a hearing hazard over time. The noise rating should be taken into consideration before you invest in a new appliance. Try to use appliances that have a lower noise rating.
Don’t worry about speaking up if the noise gets too loud when you’re at a restaurant or party. A restaurant manager might be willing to turn the background music down for you or even move you to a different table away from loud speakers or clanging dishes.
Be Aware of Noise Levels at Work
When you’re working, protect your ears if your job is loud. If your boss doesn’t provide hearing protection, buy your own. There are numerous products out there that are made to protect you such as:
Your employer will most likely be willing to listen if you bring up your concerns.
Add hearing to the long list of reasons you shouldn’t smoke. Studies reveal that smokers are much more likely to experience age-related hearing loss. If you are exposed to second-hand smoke this is also true.
Check And Double Check Your Medications
Ototoxic medications are known to cause damage to your ears. Some common offenders include:
- Certain antibiotics
- Cardiac medication
- Narcotic analgesics
- Antidepressants and mood stabilizers
There are many others 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 use them only when you really need them. Ask your doctor first if you are not sure.
Treat Your Body Well
The little things you should do anyway like eating right and exercising regularly are a major part of preventing hearing loss from getting worse, especially as you get older. Cut down on the amount of sodium you consume and take your medications to manage your high blood pressure. You have a lower risk of chronic illness, such as diabetes, if you take good care of your body and this leads to lower chances of hearing problems.
Last but not least, have your hearing examined if you believe you might have hearing loss or if you hear ringing in your ears. You could need hearing aids and not even know it so pay close attention to your hearing. Schedule an appointment with a hearing expert to keep any problems from getting even worse. It’s never too late.