Hearing loss is normal for the majority of people, but does it have to be that way? As they begin to grow older, most adults will notice a subtle change in their hearing. That change is really the effect of many years of listening to sound. Just like most things in life, though, prevention is the key to controlling the extent of that loss and how fast it advances. Later in your life, how bad your hearing loss is will depend on the choices you make now. You should carefully consider it sooner than later because you can still lessen further loss of hearing. You really want to keep your hearing from becoming worse, but what can you do?
Learn About Your Hearing Loss
Understanding what causes most hearing loss starts with learning how the ears work. Age-associated hearing loss, known medically as presbycusis, affects one in three people in this country from 64 to 74. It is a cumulation of damage to the ears over the years. Presbycusis starts slowly and then gets progressively worse.
Sound enters the ear in pressure waves that are amplified a number of times before they finally get to the inner ear. Sound waves oscillate tiny hairs that bump into chemical releasing structures. These chemicals are translated into electrical signals which the brain interprets as sound.
All of this vibration eventually causes the hairs to start to break down and misfunction. These hair cells don’t fix themselves, either, so once gone, they’re gone. If there are no tiny hairs, there are no chemicals released to produce the electrical signal which the brain interprets as sound.
How exactly do these hair cells become damaged? It can be greatly increased by several factors but it can be anticipated, to some degree, as a part of aging. Sound waves come in an assortment of strengths, however; 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.
Loud noise is absolutely a factor but there are others too. Chronic diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes take a toll, as well.
Protecting Your Hearing
You need to depend on consistent hearing hygiene to protect your ears over time. The volume of sound is the biggest problem. Sound is measured in decibels and the higher the decibel the more damaging the noise. You might believe that it takes a very high volume to cause damage, but it doesn’t. If you find that you have to raise your voice to talk over a noise, it’s too loud.
Even just a few loud minutes, let alone frequent exposure, will be enough to have an adverse effect later on. Taking precautions when you expect to be subjected to loud sound, luckily, is pretty easy. Wear hearing protection when you:
- Do something where the noise is loud.
- Go to a concert
- Run power equipment
- Ride a motorcycle
Headphones, earbuds, and other accessories made to isolate and amplify sound should be avoided. Partake of music the old-fashioned way and at a lower volume.
Manage The Noise Around You
Even the items around your house can produce enough noise to become an issue over time. When you buy an appliance for your house, consider the noise rating of the product. It’s far better to use appliances with lower noise ratings.
Don’t worry about speaking up if the noise is too loud when you are at a restaurant or party. The host of the party, or maybe even the restaurant manager may be willing to help accommodate for your issue.
Pay Attention to Noise Levels at Work
When you’re working, protect your ears if your job is loud. If your boss doesn’t provide hearing protection, invest in your own. Here are a few products that will protect your ears:
There’s a good chance that if you mention your concern, your manager will listen.
Give up Smoking
Put hearing health on the long list of reasons to quit smoking. Studies show that cigarette smokers are much more likely to get age-related hearing loss. If you are exposed to second-hand smoke this is also true.
Make Certain to Look Closely at Medications That You Take
Certain medications are ototoxic, meaning they can cause damage to your hearing. Several common offenders include:
- Certain antibiotics
- Narcotic analgesics
- Cardiac medication
- Antidepressants and mood stabilizers
There are many others that go on this list, including some over the counter and some prescription medications. Only use pain relievers when you really need them and make sure you check all of the labels. If you are not sure about a drug, consult your doctor before taking it.
Treat Your Body Well
To slow down hearing loss it’s especially important, as you get older, to do the normal things that keep you healthy, like eating well and getting regular exercise. Decrease the amount of salt you eat and take your medications to deal with your high blood pressure. The better you take care of your body, the lower your risk of chronic illnesses that could cost you your hearing over time, like diabetes.
If you believe that you hear ringing in your ears or if you have some hearing loss, get your hearing tested. The sooner you acknowledge you have 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 hearing, so if you notice a change, even a small one, schedule an appointment with a hearing care professional to find out what you can do to keep it from getting worse.