Hearing loss is common for the majority of people, but does it have to be that way? As they begin to grow older, most adults will start to notice a subtle change in their hearing ability. After listening to sound for years, you will notice even small changes in your hearing ability. The extent of the loss and how rapidly it advances is best controlled with prevention, as is true with most things in life. There are a few things you can do now that will impact your hearing later in your life. When it comes to the health of your ears, it’s never too late to care or too soon to begin. What steps can you take now to safeguard your hearing?
Understanding Hearing Loss
Understanding how the ears actually work is the first step to knowing what causes most hearing loss. Age-related hearing loss, known medically as presbycusis, impacts one in three people in the U.S. from 64 to 74. It is an accumulation of damage to the ears over the years. Presbycusis is slight at first and then gets progressively worse.
Sound enters the ear in pressure waves that are amplified several times before they finally reach the inner ear. Once there, the sound vibrates very small hairs cells, causing them to bump into structures that release chemicals to create an electrical message which the brain translates into sound.
Malfunctioning over time, due to the constant vibration, the tiny hairs finally quit. Once these hair cells are lost they won’t grow back. The sound is not converted into a signal that the brain can understand without those little vibrating hairs.
So, what creates this deterioration of the hair cells? It will happen, to some extent, with normal aging but there are other factors which will also contribute. The word “volume” refers to the power of sound waves. The higher the volume, the more powerful the sound wave and the bigger the impact on the hair cells.
Loud sound is definitely a consideration but there are others too. Chronic sicknesses such as high blood pressure and diabetes take a toll, as well.
How to Protect Your Hearing
Safeguarding your hearing over time is dependent on consistent hearing hygiene. Sound volume presents the biggest problem. Sound is measured using decibels and the higher the decibel the more hazardous the noise. Damage happens at a far lower decibel level then you would realize. A noise is too loud if you have to raise your voice to talk over it.
Everyone deals with the occasional loud noise but constant exposure or even just a couple of loud minutes at a time is sufficient to impact your hearing later in life. On the plus side, it’s pretty easy to take safety measures to protect your ears when you expect to be around loud sound. Wear hearing protection when you:
- Participate in loud activities.
- Ride a motorcycle
- Run power tools
- Go to a performance
Headphones, earbuds, and other devices designed to isolate and amplify sound should be avoided. The old-fashioned way is a less dangerous way to listen to music and that means at a reduced volume.
Day-to-Day Noises That Can Become a Problem
Enough noise can be produced, even by common household sounds, to become a hearing threat over time. When you buy an appliance for your house, consider the noise rating of the product. Try to use appliances that have a lower noise rating.
Don’t worry about speaking up if the noise is too loud when you are at a restaurant or party. The party’s host, or perhaps even the restaurant manager will probably be willing to help accommodate for your issue.
Be Aware of Noise Levels at Work
If your job exposes you to loud sounds like equipment, you should do something about it. Invest in your own ear protection if it is not provided by your manager. Here are a few products that will protect your ears:
Your employer will probably listen if you bring up your worries.
Hearing damage is yet another good reason to quit smoking. Studies reveal that cigarette smokers are much more likely to experience age-related hearing loss. If you are subjected to second-hand smoke this is also true.
Check And Double Check Your Medications
Many medications are ototoxic, meaning they can cause damage to your ears. A few typical culprits include:
- Cardiac medication
- Narcotic analgesics
- Mood stabilizers and antidepressants
- Certain antibiotics
The complete list is quite a bit longer than this and includes prescription medication as well as over the counter medicines. Check the label of any pain relievers you purchase and take them only when you really need them. If you are not sure about a drug, consult your doctor before taking it.
Treat Your Body Well
The little things you should do anyway like eating right and exercise are an important part of preventing hearing loss from getting worse, especially as you start to get older. Do what is required to deal with your high blood pressure like taking your medication and lowering sodium intake. The better you take care of your health, the lower your chances of chronic health problems that could 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. The sooner you recognize there is a problem, the sooner you can do something about it, such as getting hearing aids. If you notice any changes in your hearing, schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist. It’s never too late to take care of your hearing.