When you were younger, you most likely considered hearing loss a consequence of getting old. You probably had older adults in your life trying to comprehend words or wearing hearing aids.
But just like 30 or 60 only seemed old to you until it started to catch up to you, as you learn more about hearing loss, you realize that it has less to do with the aging process and much more to do with something else.
This is the one thing you should understand: Acknowledging that you have hearing loss doesn’t mean that you’re old.
Hearing Loss is a Condition That Can Take Place at Any Age
By 12 years old, audiologists can already identify some hearing loss in 13% of cases. You’ll agree, this isn’t because 12-year-olds are “old”. Teenage hearing loss has increased 33% in the past 30 years.
What’s the cause of this?
Debilitating hearing loss has already set in for 2% of individuals between 45 and 55 and 8% of people between 55 and 64.
Aging isn’t the issue. What you probably consider an age-related hearing loss is 100% preventable. And you have the ability to dramatically decrease its development.
Noise exposure is the most common cause of age associated or “sensorineural” hearing loss.
For decades hearing loss was believed to be inescapable as you get older. But protecting and even restoring your hearing is well within the scope of modern science.
How Hearing Loss is Caused by Noise
The first step to safeguarding your hearing is learning how something as “harmless” as noise results in hearing loss.
Waves are what sound is made of. These waves travel into your ear canal. They move past your eardrum into your inner ear.
Here, small hair cells in your inner ear vibrate. Which hair cells vibrate, and how fast or frequently they vibrate, becomes a neurological code. Your brain is able to convert this code into words, running water, a car horn, a cry or whatever else you might hear.
But when the inner ear receives sounds that are too intense, these hair cells move too quickly. This level of sound damages these hairs and they will eventually die.
when they’re gone, you can’t hear.
Why Noise-Induced Hearing Loss is Permanent
If you cut your hand, the wound heals. But these tiny hair cells won’t grow back or heal. Over time, as you expose your ears to loud noise, more and more of these hairs die.
Hearing loss gets worse as they do.
every day Noises That Cause Hearing Damage
Most people don’t know that hearing loss can be caused by noise we hear every day. These things might seem completely harmless:
- Riding a motorcycle/snowmobile
- Using head phones/earbuds
- Mowing the lawn
- Turning the car stereo way up
- Using farm equipment
- Working in a factory or other loud profession
- Driving on a busy highway with the windows or top down
- Going to a movie/play/concert
- Being a musician
You don’t need to give up these things. Fortunately, you can take proactive actions to reduce noise-induced hearing loss.
How to Keep Hearing Loss From Making You “Feel” Older
Acknowledging that you have hearing loss, if you’re already dealing with it, doesn’t need to make you feel old. The fact is, failing to acknowledge it can doom you to faster advancement and complications that “will” make you feel a lot older in only a few years like:
- Increased Fall Risk
- More frequent trips to the ER
- Strained relationships
- Social Isolation
For people with neglected hearing loss these are substantially more prevalent.
Ways You Can Prevent Additional Hearing Problems
Recognizing how to avoid hearing loss is the starting point.
- Get a sound meter app on your mobile device. Determine how loud things actually are.
- Learn when volumes get harmful. In under 8 hours, irreversible damage can be the result of volumes over 85dB. Irreversible hearing loss, at 110 dB, occurs in over 15 minutes. 120 dB and above results in instant hearing loss. 140 to 170 dB is the average volume of a gunshot.
- Recognize that If you’ve ever had trouble hearing temporarily after going to a concert, you’ve already induced permanent harm to your hearing. The more often it occurs, the worse it gets.
- When it’s needed, wear earmuffs and/or earplugs
- When dealing with hearing protection, adhere to any guidelines that apply to your situation.
- If you have to be exposed to loud sounds, limit your exposure time.
- Standing too close to loudspeakers is a bad idea in any situation.
- Get earbuds/headphones that have built in volume control. They never go above 90 dB. At that level, even nonstop, all day listening wouldn’t cause hearing damage for most individuals.
- High blood pressure, low blood oxygen, and some medications can make you more vulnerable at lower levels. To be safe, never listen on headphones at above 50%. Car speakers will vary and a volume meter app can help but regarding headphones, 50% or less is best policy.
- Use your hearing aid. The brain will start to atrophy if you don’t use your hearing aid when you need it. It works the same way as the muscles in your body. If you let them go, it will be hard to get them back.
Get a Hearing Examination
Are you putting things off or in denial? Stop it. Be proactive about reducing further harm by acknowledging your situation.
Talk to Your Hearing Specialist About Hearing Solutions
Hearing loss does not have any “natural cure”. It might be time to invest in a hearing aid if your hearing loss is severe.
Do a Cost-Benefit Comparison of Investing in Hearing Aids
Lots of individuals who do acknowledge their hearing loss just decide to cope with it. They don’t want people to think they are old because they have hearing aids. Or they are concerned that they won’t be able to afford them.
But when they comprehend that hearing loss will get worse faster and can cause numerous relationship and health complications, it’s easy to see that the pros well surpass the cons.
Schedule a hearing exam with a hearing professional. And you don’t have to be concerned that you look old if you end up needing hearing aids. Todays hearing aids are sophisticated and advanced pieces of modern technology.