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The ironic part of hearing loss is that we don’t have a tendency to start appreciating our favorite sounds until after we’ve lost the capability to clearly hear them. We don’t stop to give thought to, for instance, how much we enjoy a good conversation with a friend until we have to habitually ask them to repeat themselves.

Whether it’s your favorite Mozart record or the sounds of a Bluejay first thing in the morning, your total well being is directly tied to your capability to hear—whether you realize it or not. And if you wait until after you’ve lost your hearing to come to this recognition, you’re going to invest a good deal of time and effort working to get it back.

So how can you retain 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 steadily takes place as we grow old. Along 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 process of getting older or alter your genes, you can avoid noise-induced hearing loss from the other causes discussed below. And keep in mind that age-related hearing loss is considerably more challenging to treat if made worse by preventable damage.

2. Traveling

Routine exposure to sound levels above 85 decibels can result in permanent hearing loss, which is bad news if you happen to own a convertible. New research indicates that driving a convertible with the top down at excessive speeds yields an average sound volume of 90 decibels. Motorcyclists encounter even louder sounds and those who take the subway are at risk as well.

So does everyone 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 own a convertible, roll up your car windows and drive a little slower; if you ride a motorcycle, put on a helmet and think about earplugs; and if you use the subway, give some thought to buying 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 damaging noise volumes on the job. 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 work life accumulating hearing loss that will keep you from enjoying your retirement. Check with your supervisor about its hearing protection plan, and if they do not have one, talk with your local hearing specialist for custom solutions.

4. Taking drugs and smoking

Smoking interferes with blood flow, on top of other things, which could enhance your risk of developing hearing loss—if you really needed 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: try to avoid taking 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. All of our favorite hobbies produce decibel levels just above this limit, and any sound over 85 decibels can cause hearing loss. If the limit 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 full volume get to more than 100 decibels while rock concerts reach more than 110. The solution is straight forward: turn down your iPod, wear earplugs at live shows, and limit your length of exposure to the music.

6. Getting sick or injured

Specific conditions, 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 frequent monitoring of glucose levels is crucial. And if you ride a motorcycle, wearing a helmet will help protect against traumatic head injuries.

Talk to Your Hearing Specialist

Although there are many ways to lose your hearing, a few straightforward lifestyle adjustments can help you safeguard your hearing for life. Keep in mind: the mild inconvenience of wearing custom earplugs, driving with the windows up, or turning down your iPod are slight compared to the substantial inconvenience of hearing loss later in life.

Ready to take your hearing health seriously? Give us a call today.

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