Loss of hearing is normal for the majority of people, but does it have to be that way? The truth is, the majority of people will start to notice a change in their hearing as they age. That change is really the effect of many years of listening to sound. Just like most things in life, though, prevention is the key to managing the extent of that loss and how fast it progresses. There are some things you can do now that will impact your hearing later on in your life. In terms of the health of your ears, it’s never too late to care or too early to start. You really want to keep your hearing from getting worse, but what can be done?
Learn About Your Hearing Loss
Knowing what causes most hearing loss starts with learning how the ears work. Age-related hearing loss, known medically as presbycusis, impacts one in every three people in America between the ages of 64 and 74. It is a cumulation of damage to the ears over the years. Presbycusis is slight at first and then gets progressively worse.
The ear canal amplifies sound waves several times before they reach the inner ear. As it arrives, the sound jiggles very small hairs cells, causing them to bump structures that release chemicals to create an electrical message which the brain interprets as sound.
All of this vibration eventually causes the hairs to start to break down and malfunction. When these hair cells are destroyed, they are gone for good. The sound is not converted into a signal that the brain can comprehend without those little vibrating hairs.
So, what brings about this deterioration of the hair cells? It can be considerably increased by several factors but it can be expected, to varying degrees, as a part of aging. Sound waves come in a variety of strengths, however; that is what’s known as volume. The louder the volume, the stronger the sound wave and the bigger the injury to the hair cells.
Direct exposure to loud noise isn’t the only factor to consider. Chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure and diabetes have an affect, as well.
Safeguarding Your Hearing
You need to rely on good hearing hygiene to safeguard your ears over time. Sound volume presents the biggest problem. Sound is a lot more unsafe when it’s at a higher volume or decibel level. You may believe that it takes a very high decibel level to cause injury, but it actually doesn’t. A noise is too loud if you have to raise your voice to talk over it.
Everyone has to cope with the random loud noise but continued exposure or even just a few loud minutes at a time is sufficient to affect your hearing later in life. Taking precautions when you expect to be exposed to loud sound, fortunately, is pretty easy. Use hearing protection when you:
- Ride a motorcycle
- Do something where the noise is loud.
- Go to a concert
- Run power tools
Avoid using accessories designed to amplify and isolate sound, too, like headphones and earbuds. Listen to music the old-fashioned way and at a lower volume.
Control The Noise Around You
Enough noise can be produced, even by every-day household sounds, to become a hearing threat over time. Today, appliances and other home devices come with noise ratings. The lower the rating the better.
If you are out at a restaurant or party, don’t be afraid to speak up if the noise is too loud. A restaurant manager might be willing to turn down the background music for you or possibly move you to a different table away from loud speakers or clanging dishes.
Be Aware of Noise Levels at Work
When you’re working, protect your ears if your work-place is loud. Buy your own ear protection if it’s not provided by your employer. There are plenty of products out there that will protect you such as:
There’s a good chance that if you bring up the concern, your boss will listen.
Put hearing health on the long list of reasons you shouldn’t smoke. Studies reveal that smokers are much more likely to experience age-related hearing loss. If you are exposed to second-hand smoke this is also true.
Double Check Medications
Many medications are ototoxic, meaning they can cause damage to your ears. A few typical culprits include:
- Antidepressants and mood stabilizers
- Certain antibiotics
- Cardiac medication
- Narcotic analgesics
There are many others that go on this list, among them some over the counter and some prescription medications. Read the label of any pain relievers you purchase and take them only when necessary. Consult your doctor first if you are unsure.
Be Good to Your Body
Regular exercise and a good diet are things you should do anyway but they are also relevant to your hearing health. Do what is needed to manage your high blood pressure like taking your medication and reducing sodium consumption. The better you care for your health, the lower your chances of chronic illnesses that could cost you your hearing over time, like diabetes.
If you believe that you hear ringing in your ears or if you have some hearing loss, have your hearing checked. Pay close attention to your hearing because you might not even know that you need hearing aids. It’s never too late to start taking care of your hearing, so if you notice a change, even a small one, schedule an appointment with a hearing care professional to find out what to do to keep it from getting even worse.