Hearing loss is not actually unavoidable, even though it is common. As they begin to grow older, most adults will begin to recognize a subtle change in their hearing ability. That change is really the effect of many years of listening to sound. As with most things in life, though, prevention is the answer to controlling the extent of that loss and how quickly it advances. There are some things you can do now that will affect your hearing later on in life. It’s never too early to begin or too late to care when it comes to ear health. What can you do to prevent your hearing loss from getting worse?
Understanding Hearing Loss
It begins with knowing how the ears work and what causes most hearing loss. Age-associated hearing loss, medically known as presbycusis, is affecting one in three people in the U.S. from 64 to 74. It is an accumulation of damage to the ears over the years. Presbycusis starts slowly and then gets progressively worse.
Sound waves reach the inner ear only after being amplified several times by the ear canal. Once there, the sound shakes very small hairs cells, causing them to bump structures which release chemicals to create an electrical message which the brain translates into sound.
Breaking down over time, because of the constant vibration, the tiny hairs eventually quit. Once these hair cells are gone they won’t grow back. The sound is not converted into a signal that the brain can comprehend without those little vibrating hairs.
What’s the story behind this hair cell damage? It can be considerably magnified by several factors but it can be anticipated, to varying degrees, as a part of aging. How strong a sound wave is, is generally known as “volume”. If the sound is at a higher volume, then the power of the sound wave is greater, and the hair cells take more damage.
There are some other factors apart from exposure to loud sound. Also, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other chronic illnesses will have a strong effect.
Protecting Your Hearing
Safeguarding your ears over time depends on good hearing hygiene. The volume of sound is the biggest problem. Sound is much more unsafe when it’s at a louder volume or decibel level. It doesn’t take as much as you might think to lead to hearing damage. You shouldn’t need to raise your voice to talk over another sound. If you do that sound is too loud.
Your hearing will be impacted later on by even a couple of loud minutes and even more so by continued exposure. On the plus side, it’s fairly easy to take safety measures to protect your hearing when you know you’re going to be around loud sound. Use hearing protection when you:
- Participate in loud activities.
- Go to a performance
- Ride a motorcycle
- Run power tools
Headphones, earbuds, and other devices made to isolate and amplify sound should be avoided. A lower volume should be chosen and use regular speakers.
Control The Noise Around You
Even the things in your home can produce enough noise to be a problem over time. The noise rating should be checked before you get a new appliance. It’s much better to use equipment with lower noise ratings.
If you are out at a restaurant or party, don’t be afraid to tell someone if the noise gets too loud. A restaurant manager may be willing to turn down the background music for you or maybe even move you to a different table away from loud speakers or clanging dishes.
Pay Attention to Noise Levels at Work
Take the proper steps to safeguard your hearing if your job exposes you to loud noises. If your manager doesn’t provide hearing protection, invest in your own. There are lots of products out there that will protect you such as:
There’s a good chance that if you bring up the concern, your boss 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. This is true if you are subjected to second-hand smoke, too.
Double Check Medications
Some medications are known to cause hearing damage. This is called ototoxicity. Several common offenders include:
- Cardiac medication
- Narcotic analgesics
- Certain antibiotics
- Antidepressants and mood stabilizers
This list is a combination of over-the-counter products and prescription medications and it’s not even all of them. Read the label of any pain relievers you purchase and take them only when you really need them. Ask your doctor first if you are uncertain.
Treat Your Body Well
Exercising and eating right are things you should do anyway but they are also essential to your hearing health. Do what is necessary to deal with your high blood pressure like taking your medication and reducing sodium consumption. 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 loss.
Last but not least, have your hearing examined if you think you may have hearing loss or if you hear ringing in your ears. You might need hearing aids and not even know it so pay attention to your hearing. Schedule an appointment with a hearing expert to keep any issues from getting worse. It’s never too late.