Hearing loss is not necessarily inevitable, despite the fact that it is quite common. The truth is, the majority of people will start to recognize a change in their hearing as they age. After listening to sound for years, you will begin to recognize even small changes in your hearing ability. Like most things in life, though, prevention is the key to managing the extent of that loss and how quickly it progresses. There are a few things you can do now that will impact your hearing later in your life. It’s never too soon to begin or too late to care when it comes to ear health. What steps can you take now to protect your hearing?
Understanding Hearing Loss
Understanding how the ears actually work is the first step to knowing what causes most hearing loss. Age-related hearing loss, known medically as presbycusis, is affecting one in every three people in this country from 64 to 74. It is a cumulation of damage to the ears over time. Presbycusis is slight at first and then gets worse over time.
Sound goes into the ear in waves that are amplified a number of times before they finally get to the inner ear. Once there, the sound shakes little hairs cells, causing them to bump structures which release chemicals to create an electrical message which the brain translates into sound.
All of this vibration eventually causes the hairs to begin to break down and malfunction. Once these hair cells are gone they won’t come back. Without those cells to generate the electrical impulses, the sound can’t be translated into a language the brain can comprehend.
So, what brings about this destruction of the hair cells? It can be considerably increased by several factors but it can be expected, to varying degrees, with aging. How strong a sound wave is, is generally known as “volume”. The higher the volume, the stronger the sound wave and the bigger the injury to the hair cells.
Loud sound is surely a factor but there are others too. Chronic sicknesses like high blood pressure and diabetes take a toll, as well.
Safeguarding Your Hearing
Taking care of your hearing over time is dependent on consistent hearing hygiene. Volume is at the root of the problem. Sound is much more dangerous 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. A noise is too loud if you have to raise your voice to talk over it.
Your hearing can be impaired later on by even a few loud minutes and even more so by continued exposure. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to take safety measures to protect your ears when you expect to be around loud sound. Wear hearing protection when you:
- Go to a concert
- Ride a motorcycle
- Do something where the noise is loud.
Avoid using devices made to amplify and isolate sound, also, like headphones and earbuds. The old-fashioned way is a safer way to listen to music and that means at a reduced volume.
Day-to-Day Noises That Can Become an Issue
Even the things in your home can produce enough noise to be an issue over time. When you buy an appliance for your home, check the noise rating of the product. The lower the rating the better.
Don’t be afraid to speak up if the noise is too loud when you’re at a restaurant or party. A restaurant manager may be willing to turn the background music down for you or possibly even move you to another table away from loud speakers or clanging dishes.
Be Noise Conscious When You Are at Work
Take steps to safeguard your hearing if your job exposes you to loud noises. Purchase your own hearing protection if it is not provided by your employer. Here are some products that can protect your ears:
If you mention your worries, chances are your employer will be willing to listen.
Put hearing health on the list of reasons you shouldn’t smoke. Studies demonstrate that smokers are much more likely to experience age-related hearing loss. This is true if you are subjected to second-hand smoke, too.
All The Medications That You Take Should be Closely Inspected
Some medications are known to cause hearing damage. This is called ototoxicity. Several common offenders include:
- Cardiac medication
- Antidepressants and mood stabilizers
- Certain antibiotics
- Narcotic analgesics
This list is a combination of over-the-counter products and prescription medications and it doesn’t cover all of them. Only take pain relievers when you really need them and make sure you check all of the labels. If you are unsure about a drug, ask your doctor before taking it.
Be Kind to Your Body
The little things you should do anyway like eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly are a major part of preventing hearing loss from getting worse, especially as you get older. Do what is needed to deal with your high blood pressure like taking your medication and lowering salt intake. The better you take care of your body, the lower your risk of chronic sicknesses that could cost you your hearing over time, like diabetes.
If you have hearing loss or if you have ringing in your ears, get a hearing exam. Pay close attention to your hearing because you may not even know that you may need hearing aids. Schedule an appointment with a hearing expert to keep any problems from getting worse. It’s never too late.