Loss of hearing is normal for most people, but is it inevitable? As they age, most adults will notice a change in their hearing ability. After listening to sound for many years, you will begin to recognize even small changes in your hearing ability. The extent of the loss and how rapidly it progresses is best controlled with prevention, as is true with most things in life. There are things you can do now that will impact your hearing later in life. When it comes to the health of your ears, it’s never too late to care or too early to start. What can you do to keep your hearing loss from getting worse?
Understanding Hearing Loss
It begins with recognizing how the ears work and what causes most hearing loss. Age-related hearing loss, medically known as presbycusis, affects one in every three people in America between the ages of 64 and 74. It is a cumulation of damage to the ears over time. Presbycusis is slight at first and then gets worse over time.
Sound goes into the ear as pressure waves that are amplified a number of times before they finally reach the inner ear. Chemicals are released after being bumped into by little hairs, which are in turn shaken by inbound waves of sound. These chemicals are translated by the brain into electrical pulses, which are then “heard” by the brain as sound.
All of this vibration inevitably causes the hairs to start to break down and malfunction. These hair cells won’t restore themselves, either, so once gone, they’re gone. If there are no tiny hairs, there are no chemicals released to create the electrical impulse 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 some degree, as a part of aging. Sound waves come in a variety of strengths, however; that is what’s 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 to consider. Chronic illnesses like high blood pressure and diabetes take a toll, as well.
How to Protect Your Hearing
You need to rely on consistent hearing hygiene to protect your ears over time. Sound volume presents the biggest problem. Sound is measured using decibels and the higher the decibel the more damaging the noise. You might think that it takes a very high decibel level to cause injury, but it doesn’t. You shouldn’t need to raise your voice to talk over another sound. If you do that sound is too loud.
Your hearing will be impacted later on by even a few loud minutes and even more so by frequent exposure. Fortunately protecting your hearing from expected loud noises is really easy. Wear hearing protection when you:
- Ride a motorcycle
- Go to a concert
- Participate in loud activities.
- Run power tools
Headphones, earbuds, and other accessories designed to isolate and amplify sound should be avoided. A reduced volume should be chosen and use conventional speakers.
Control The Noise Around You
Over time, even household sounds can become a hearing threat. The noise rating should be taken into consideration before you buy a new appliance. Try to use appliances that have a lower noise rating.
If the noise is too loud when you are out at a party or restaurant, don’t be scared to let someone know. The party’s host, or perhaps even the restaurant manager may be willing to help accommodate for your issue.
Pay Attention to Noise Levels at Work
If your job exposes you to loud sounds like equipment, then do something about it. Purchase your own ear protection if it is not provided by your manager. Here are several products that can protect your hearing:
The chances are good that if you bring up the concern, your manager will listen.
Hearing damage is yet another good reason to stop smoking. Studies show that smokers are much more likely to experience age-related hearing loss. Second-hand smoke can also speed up hearing loss.
All The Medications That You Take Should be Closely Examined
Many medications are ototoxic, meaning they damage your ears. A few typical culprits include:
- Narcotic analgesics
- Mood stabilizers and antidepressants
- Cardiac medication
- Certain antibiotics
There are many other examples that go on this list, including some over the counter and some prescription medications. If you use pain relievers, do so only when necessary and check the labels. Ask your doctor first if you are not certain.
Take Good Care of Your Body
Regular exercise and a good diet are things you should do anyway but they are also essential to your hearing health. Reduce the amount of sodium you consume and take your medications to manage your high blood pressure. The better you care for your health, the lower your chances of chronic sicknesses that could cost you your hearing over time, like diabetes.
Last but not least, get your hearing tested if you think you may have hearing loss or if you hear ringing in your ears. The sooner you acknowledge there is a problem, the sooner you can do something about it, such as getting hearing aids. It’s never too late to start taking care of your ears, so if you notice any change, even a small one, schedule an appointment with a hearing care professional to find out what you can do to keep it from getting even worse.