The ironic part of hearing loss is that we don’t seem to begin appreciating our favorite sounds until after we’ve lost the ability to clearly hear them. We don’t stop to contemplate, for instance, how much we appreciate a good conversation with a close friend until we have to routinely ask them to repeat themselves.
Whether it’s your favorite Mozart record or the songs of a Bluejay first thing in the morning, your quality of life is directly connected to your ability to hear—whether you recognize it or not. And if you wait until after you’ve lost your hearing to come to this awareness, you’re going to devote a tremendous amount of time and effort working 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 arises as we grow older. Combined with presbycusis, there is also some evidence suggesting that genetics plays a role, and that some of us are more susceptible to hearing loss than others.
While there’s not much you can do to slow down the process of getting older or modify your genes, you can avoid noise-induced hearing loss from the other causes explained below. And keep in mind that age-related hearing loss is much more difficult to treat if worsened by preventable damage.
Consistent exposure to sound levels above 85 decibels can cause permanent hearing loss, which is not-so-good news if you happen to drive a convertible. New research indicates that driving a convertible with the top down at excessive speeds produces an average sound volume level of 90 decibels. Motorcyclists face even higher sounds and those who take the subway are at risk as well.
So does everybody either have to abandon travel or live with permanent earplugs? Not quite, but you should look for ways to reduce your cumulative noise exposure during travel. If you drive a convertible, roll up your car windows and drive a little slower; if you ride a motorcycle, wear a helmet and consider earplugs; and if you take the subway, consider buying noise-canceling headphones.
3. Going to work
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), 22 million workers in the US are exposed to potentially harmful noise levels on the job. The highest risk jobs are in manufacturing, farming, construction, the military, and the music industry.
The last thing you need is to spend your entire working life amassing hearing loss that will prevent you from taking pleasure in your retirement. Speak with your manager about its hearing protection plan, and if they do not have one, get in touch with your local hearing specialist for custom solutions.
4. Taking drugs and smoking
Smoking interferes with blood flow, among other things, which could enhance your risk of developing hearing loss—if you really required another reason to stop smoking. Antibiotics, potent pain medications, and a large number of other drugs are “ototoxic,” or damaging to the cells of hearing. In fact, there are more than 200 known ototoxic medications.
The bottom line: avoid taking ototoxic drugs or medications unless absolutely necessary. Speak 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 generate decibel levels just above this limit, and anything over 85 decibels can result in hearing loss. If the threshold were just a little higher, say 100 decibels, we wouldn’t have to worry about it so much.
But 85 it is. And portable mp3 players at max volume get to more than 100 decibels while rock shows reach more than 110. The solution is simple: turn down your iPod, wear earplugs at concerts, and limit your exposure time to the music.
6. Getting sick or injured
Specific disorders, such as diabetes, together with any traumatic head injuries, places you at a higher risk of developing hearing loss. If you have diabetes, regular exercise, a balanced diet, and regular monitoring of blood sugar levels is essential. And if you ride a motorcycle, wearing a helmet will help prevent traumatic head injuries.
Talk to Your Hearing Specialist
Although there are many ways to lose your hearing, a few straight forward lifestyle modifications can help you sustain your hearing for life. Remember: the minor inconvenience of wearing custom earplugs, driving with the windows up, or turning down your iPod are slight in comparison to the major inconvenience of hearing loss later in life.
Ready to take your hearing health seriously? Give us a call today.