Hearing loss is common for most people, but is it inevitable? The reality is, the majority of people will start to detect a change in their hearing as they get older. Even small differences in your ability to hear will be able to be noticed after years of hearing sound. Prevention is the best method of controlling the extent of the loss and how quickly it progresses, which is true of most things in life. There are some things you can do now that will affect your hearing later on in life. As for the health of your ears, it’s never too late to care or too early to begin. What can you do to prevent your hearing loss from getting worse?
Comprehending Hearing Loss
It starts with recognizing how the ears work and what causes most loss of hearing. Age-related hearing loss, known medically as presbycusis, is affecting one in three people in America from 64 to 74. It is an accumulation of damage to the ears over time. Presbycusis starts slowly and then gets progressively worse.
Sound goes into the ear as pressure waves that are amplified a number of times before they reach the inner ear. Once there, the sound jiggles tiny 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 shaking and bumping is the hair cells eventually break down and stop working. Once these hair cells are gone they won’t come back. The sound is not translated into a language that the brain can understand without those little vibrating hairs.
What’s behind this hair cell destruction? It will happen, to varying degrees, with normal aging but there are other factors which will also contribute. Sound waves come in countless strengths, however; that is what you know 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.
Exposure to loud noise isn’t the only factor. Chronic diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes have an affect, as well.
Protecting Your Hearing
Consistent hearing hygiene is an important part of taking care of your ears over time. The volume of sound is the biggest problem. When sound is at a higher volume or decibel level, it is significantly more damaging to the ears. It doesn’t take as much as you might think to lead to damage. A noise is too loud if you have to raise your voice to talk over it.
Even a few loud minutes, let alone continued exposure, will be enough to cause an adverse effect later on. Taking precautions when you expect to be subjected to loud sound, luckily, is pretty simple. Wear hearing protection when you:
- Run power equipment
- Go to a concert
- Ride a motorcycle
- Do something where the noise is loud.
Headphones, earbuds, and other devices designed to isolate and amplify sound should be avoided. A reduced volume should be chosen and use regular speakers.
Control The Noise Around You
Enough noise can be produced, even by every-day household sounds, to become a hearing hazard over time. When you purchase an appliance for your home, consider the noise rating of the product. Try to use appliances that have a lower noise rating.
When you are out at a crowded restaurant or party, don’t be afraid to tell someone if the noise is too loud. The party’s host, or possibly even the restaurant manager will probably be willing to help accommodate for your issue.
Be Aware of Noise Levels at Work
If your job subjects you to loud sounds like equipment, you should do something about it. Invest in your own ear protection if it’s not provided by your employer. There are a few products out there that will protect you such as:
If you mention your situation, chances are your employer will listen.
Give up Smoking
There are lots of good reasons to quit smoking and you can add hearing loss to the long list. Studies show that smokers are much more likely to experience age-related hearing loss. Second-hand smoke can also speed up hearing loss.
Look Twice at Medications
Some medications are ototoxic, meaning they damage your hearing. Some common offenders include:
- Cardiac medication
- Certain antibiotics
- Mood stabilizers and antidepressants
- Narcotic analgesics
There are many others that go on this list, among them some over the counter and some prescription medications. Check the label of any pain relievers you purchase and use them only when you really need them. Ask your doctor first if you are not sure.
Be Good to Your Body
To prevent hearing loss it’s especially important, as you get older, to do the normal things that keep you healthy, like eating right and getting regular exercise. Do what is necessary to deal with your high blood pressure like taking your medication and lowering salt intake. The better you care for your health, the lower your risk of chronic sicknesses that might cost you your hearing over time, like diabetes.
If you believe you hear ringing in your ears or if you have some hearing loss, have your hearing examined. 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.