The ironic part of hearing loss is that we don’t seem to start appreciating our favorite sounds until after we’ve lost the ability to clearly hear them. We don’t stop to think about, for instance, how much we value a good conversation with a friend until we have to repeatedly ask them to repeat themselves.
Whether it’s your favorite Mozart album or the songs of a Bluejay first thing in the morning, your total well being is closely connected to your capability to hear—whether you recognize it or not. And if you wait until after you’ve lost your hearing to come to this recognition, you’re going to commit a tremendous amount of time and effort trying 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 develops as we grow old. Together with presbycusis, there is also some evidence indicating 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 slow down the process of getting older or tweak your genes, you can protect against noise-induced hearing loss from the other causes described below. And keep in mind that age-related hearing loss is considerably more challenging to treat if aggravated by avoidable damage.
Constant direct exposure to sound levels above 85 decibels can bring about permanent hearing loss, which is not-so-good news if you happen to own a convertible. New research reveals that driving a convertible with the top down at excessive speeds produces an average sound level of 90 decibels. Motorcyclists experience 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 exactly, but you should certainly find ways to reduce your cumulative noise exposure during travel. If you own a convertible, roll up your windows and drive a little slower; if you ride a motorcycle, wear a helmet and consider 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 workers in the US are exposed to potentially harmful noise volumes on the job. The highest risk careers are in manufacturing, farming, construction, the military, and the music industry.
The last thing you need is to spend your total working life accumulating hearing loss that will prevent you from making the most of your retirement. Discuss with your manager about its hearing protection plan, and if they don’t have one, contact your local hearing specialist for personalized solutions.
4. Taking drugs and smoking
Smoking impedes blood flow, among other things, which may increase your risk of developing hearing loss—if you really needed another reason to stop smoking. Antibiotics, strong 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. Most of our favorite hobbies generate decibel levels just over this threshold, and anything 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 music players at max volume reach 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 exposure time to the music.
6. Getting sick or injured
Selected ailments, such as diabetes, along with any traumatic head injuries, places you at a higher risk of developing hearing loss. If you have diabetes, frequent exercise, a healthy diet, and consistent monitoring of glucose levels is vital. And if you drive a motorcycle, using a helmet will help protect against traumatic head injuries.
Talk to Your Hearing Specialist
Although there are numerous ways to lose your hearing, a few simple lifestyle modifications can help you retain your hearing for life. Remember: the slight hassle of wearing custom earplugs, driving with the windows up, or turning down your iPod are slight compared to the major inconvenience of hearing loss later in life.
Ready to take your hearing health seriously? Give us a call today.