Loss of hearing is common for most people, but does it have to be that way? The fact is, the majority of people will start to recognize a change in their hearing as they get older. Even slight changes in your hearing ability will be able to be noticed after years of hearing sound. As with most things in life, though, prevention is the key to controlling the extent of that loss and how fast it progresses. Later in life, how bad your hearing loss is will be determined by the decisions you make now. You should consider it sooner than later because you can still lessen further loss of hearing. What steps can you take right now to protect your hearing?
Get The Facts About Hearing Loss
Understanding how the ears work is step one to knowing what causes most hearing loss. Age-associated hearing loss, known medically as presbycusis, is affecting one in every three people in this country between the ages of 64 and 74. It is an accumulation of damage to the ears over time. Presbycusis starts slowly and then gets progressively worse.
Sound waves get to the inner ear only after having been amplified a few times by the ear canal. Once there, the sound shakes little hairs cells, causing them to bump structures that release chemicals to create an electrical message which the brain interprets as sound.
The downside to all this movement and oscillation is that the hair cells ultimately break down and stop working. Once these hair cells are lost they won’t grow back. If there are no tiny hairs, there are no chemicals released to generate the electrical signal which the brain interprets as sound.
What’s the story behind this hair cell destruction? It can be greatly increased 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 strength of the sound wave is greater, and the hair cells take more damage.
Exposure to loud noise isn’t the only factor. Chronic sicknesses such as high blood pressure and diabetes have an affect, as well.
Safeguarding Your Hearing
Protecting your hearing over time depends on good hearing hygiene. Volume is at the heart of the problem. Sound is measured using decibels and the higher the decibel the more hazardous the noise. You may think that it takes a very high decibel level to cause damage, but it actually doesn’t. A noise is too loud if you have to raise your voice to talk over it.
Even just a few loud minutes, never mind continued exposure, will be enough to cause an adverse effect later on. Taking precautions when you expect to be exposed to loud sound, fortunately, is pretty simple. Use hearing protection when you:
- Run power tools
- Ride a motorcycle
- Go to a performance
- Participate in loud activities.
Avoid using accessories made to amplify and isolate sound, also, like headphones and earbuds. Listen to music the old-fashioned way and at a lower volume.
Every-Day Noises That Can be a Problem
Enough noise can be produced, even by common household sounds, to become a hearing hazard over time. Nowadays, appliances and other home devices have noise ratings. It’s much better to use appliances with lower noise ratings.
If the noise is too loud when you are out at a party or restaurant, don’t be scared to speak up. The party’s host, or possibly even the restaurant manager may be willing to help accommodate for your issue.
Pay Attention to Noise Levels at Work
At work, protect your ears if your work-place is loud. If your company doesn’t provide hearing protection, buy your own. Here are some products that can protect your ears:
Your employer will most likely be willing to listen if you bring up your concerns.
Give up Smoking
There are lots of good reasons to give up smoking and you can add hearing loss to the list. Studies reveal that smokers are much more likely to get age-related hearing loss. If you are exposed to second-hand smoke this is also true.
All The Medications That You Take Should be Closely Inspected
Many medications are ototoxic, meaning they can cause damage to your ears. A few common culprits include:
- Mood stabilizers and antidepressants
- Cardiac medication
- Certain antibiotics
- Narcotic analgesics
This list is a mix of over-the-counter products and prescription medications and it doesn’t cover all of them. Only take pain relievers if you really need them and make sure you check all of the labels. Consult your doctor first if you are not certain.
Take Good Care of Your Body
Exercising and eating right are things you should do for your general health but they are also essential to your hearing health. Decrease the amount of salt you eat and take your medications to manage your high blood pressure. You have a lower risk of chronic health problems, such as diabetes, if you take good care of your body and this leads to lower chances of hearing loss.
Lastly, have your hearing tested if you suspect you have hearing loss or if you hear ringing in your ears. You might need hearing aids and not even know it so pay close attention to your hearing. Schedule an appointment with a hearing expert to keep any problems from getting worse. It’s never too late.