The strange part of hearing loss is that we don’t tend to start appreciating our favorite sounds until after we’ve lost the capability to clearly hear them. We don’t pause to give thought to, for instance, how much we value a good conversation with a friend until we have to continually ask them to repeat themselves.
Whether it’s your favorite Mozart album or the sounds of a Bluejay first thing in the morning, your quality of life is directly connected to your capability to hear—regardless of whether you realize it or not. And if you wait until after you’ve lost your hearing to come to this acknowledgement, you’re going to devote quite a bit of time and effort working to get it back.
So how can you protect 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 occurs as we grow older. Together with presbycusis, there is also some evidence suggesting that genetics plays a role, and that some of us are more prone to hearing loss than others.
While there’s not much you can do to slow down the aging process or alter your genetics, you can protect against noise-induced hearing loss from the other causes discussed below. And keep in mind that age-related hearing loss is considerably more complicated to treat if aggravated by preventable damage.
Frequent direct exposure to sound volumes above 85 decibels can lead to permanent hearing loss, which is bad news if you happen to drive a convertible. New research shows that driving a convertible with the top down at high speeds produces an average sound volume level of 90 decibels. Motorcyclists face even higher 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 limit your collective noise exposure during travel. If you drive a convertible, roll up your car windows and drive a little slower; if you own a motorcycle, wear a helmet and consider earplugs; and if you ride the subway, think about purchasing noise-canceling headphones.
3. Going to work
As indicated by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), 22 million employees in the US are exposed to potentially hazardous noise volumes on the job. The highest risk jobs are in manufacturing, farming, construction, the military, and the music industry.
The last thing you want is to spend your entire work life amassing hearing loss that will keep you from enjoying your retirement. Discuss with your employer about its hearing protection plan, and if they do not have one, talk with your local hearing specialist for personalized solutions.
4. Taking drugs and smoking
Smoking interferes with blood flow, on top of other things, which could increase your risk of developing hearing loss—if you really required another reason to quit. 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 completely necessary. Speak 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 threshold, and anything over 85 decibels can cause hearing loss. If the threshold were just a little higher, say 100 decibels, we wouldn’t have to worry about it so much.
But 85 it is. And portable music players at full volume reach more than 100 decibels while rock concerts reach more than 110. The solution is straightforward: turn down your iPod, wear earplugs at live shows, and reduce your exposure time to the music.
6. Getting sick or injured
Some disorders, such as diabetes, along with any traumatic head injuries, places you at greater risk of developing hearing loss. If you have diabetes, frequent exercise, a balanced diet, and frequent monitoring of blood sugar levels is critical. And if you drive a motorcycle, using a helmet will help prevent traumatic head injuries.
Talk to Your Hearing Specialist
Although there are numerous ways to lose your hearing, a few basic lifestyle modifications can help you sustain your hearing for life. Keep in mind: the minimal hassle of wearing custom earplugs, driving with the windows up, or turning down your iPod are small compared to the major inconvenience of hearing loss later in life.
Ready to take your hearing health seriously? Give us a call today.