It’s typical to have hearing loss as you get older but does it need to happen? As they age, most adults will notice a subtle change in their hearing ability. That change is just the effect of many years of listening to sound. Like most things in life, though, prevention is the key to regulating the degree of that loss and how fast it advances. Your hearing can be affected later on in life by the things you decide to do now. Concerning your hearing health, it’s never too late to care or too soon to begin. What can you do to stop your hearing loss from becoming worse?
Learn About Your Hearing Loss
Recognizing what causes the majority of hearing loss begins with learning how the ears work. Age-related hearing loss, medically known as presbycusis, affects one in three people in the U.S. from 64 to 74. It is a cumulation of damage to the ears over the years. Presbycusis is slight at first and then gets worse over time.
The ear canal amplifies waves of sound several times before they get to the inner ear. Sound waves move tiny hairs which bump against chemical releasing structures. These chemicals are translated into electrical signals which the brain interprets as sound.
Malfunctioning over time, due to the constant vibration, the tiny hairs finally quit working. These hair cells won’t fix themselves, either, so once gone, they’re gone. If there are no tiny hairs, there are no chemicals released to produce the electrical impulse which the brain interprets as sound.
What’s behind this hair cell damage? It will happen, to some extent, with normal aging but there are other factors which will also contribute. Sound waves come in different strengths, however; that is what you know as volume. More damage is done to the hair cells if they receive stronger sound waves, and that means a higher volume of sound.
Exposure to loud sound isn’t the only factor. Chronic diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes take a toll, as well.
Safeguarding Your Hearing
Consistent hearing hygiene is a big part of taking care of your hearing over time. Volume is at the root of the problem. Sound is measured in decibels and the higher the decibel the more hazardous the noise. It doesn’t have to be as loud as you might think to cause hearing damage. You shouldn’t have to raise your voice to talk over another sound. If you do that sound is too loud.
Everyone deals with the random loud noise but continuous exposure or even just a couple of loud minutes at a time is enough to impact your hearing later on. Taking precautions when you expect to be exposed to loud sound, luckily, is pretty easy. Use hearing protection when you:
- Do something where the noise is loud.
- Run power tools
- Ride a motorcycle
- Go to a performance
Avoid using accessories designed to amplify and isolate sound, too, including headphones and earbuds. Listen to music the old-fashioned way and at a lesser volume.
Every-Day Noises That Can be an Issue
Over time, even everyday sounds will become a hearing hazard. Nowadays, appliances and other home devices have noise ratings. It’s much better to use equipment with lower noise ratings.
Don’t be afraid to speak up if the noise gets too loud when you are at a restaurant or party. A restaurant manager might be willing to turn down the background music for you or perhaps even move you to another table away from noisy speakers or clanging dishes.
Pay Attention to Noise Levels at Work
If your job exposes you to loud noises like equipment, you need to do something about it. Purchase your own hearing protection if it is not provided by your manager. Here are some products that will protect your ears:
If you mention your worries, chances are your employer will be willing to listen.
Add hearing to the list of reasons to quit smoking. Studies reveal that cigarette smokers are much more likely to get age-related hearing loss. If you are exposed to second-hand smoke this is also true.
Check And Double Check Your Medications
Some medications are known to cause hearing damage. This is called ototoxicity. A few typical culprits include:
- Certain antibiotics
- Narcotic analgesics
- Antidepressants and mood stabilizers
- Cardiac medication
This list is a mix of over-the-counter products and prescription medications and it doesn’t cover all of them. Check the label of any pain relievers you buy and use them only when necessary. If you are not sure about a drug, consult your doctor before taking it.
Take Good Care of Your Health
Exercising and eating right are things you should do for your general health but they are also essential to your hearing health. If you have high blood pressure, do what you must to manage it like reducing your sodium intake and taking the medication prescribed to you. The better you care for your body, the lower your chances of chronic sicknesses that could cost you your hearing over time, like diabetes.
Lastly, get your hearing examined if you think you may have hearing loss or if you hear ringing in your ears. Pay close attention to your hearing because you might not even know that you need hearing aids. If you observe any changes in your hearing, schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist. It’s never too late to take care of your hearing.