It’s normal to have hearing loss as you grow older but is it necessary? The truth is, the majority of people will start to notice a change in their hearing as they get older. That change is really the effect of a lot of years of listening to sound. Prevention is the best means of managing the extent of the loss and how fast it advances, which is true of most things in life. Your hearing will be affected later on in your life by the choices you make now. When it comes to your hearing health, it’s never too late to care or too soon to begin. You really want to keep your hearing from becoming worse, but what can you do?
Learn About Your Hearing Loss
Recognizing what causes the majority of hearing loss starts with learning how the ears work. Age-related hearing loss, known medically as presbycusis, is affecting one in every three people in this country from 64 to 74. It is an accumulation of damage to the ears over time. Presbycusis is slight at first and then gets progressively worse.
Sound waves get to the inner ear only after being amplified a few times by the ear canal. Chemicals are secreted after being bumped by little hairs, which are in turn shaken by inbound sound waves. These chemicals are interpreted by the brain as electrical pulses, which are then “heard” by the brain as sound.
Breaking down over time, due to the constant vibration, the tiny hairs finally quit. Once these hair cells are gone they won’t come back. If there are no tiny hairs, there are no chemicals released to produce the electrical signal which the brain translates as sound.
What’s the story behind this hair cell destruction? It will happen, to varying degrees, with normal aging but there are other factors which will also contribute. How powerful a sound wave is, is known as “volume”. More damage is done to the hair cells if they receive more powerful sound waves, and that means a higher volume of sound.
There are some other considerations aside from exposure to loud noise. Chronic diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes have an affect, as well.
Safeguarding Your Hearing
You need to depend on strong hearing hygiene to take care of your ears over time. Volume is at the root of the problem. When sound is at a higher volume or decibel level, it is significantly more damaging to the ears. You might think that it takes a very loud 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.
Even a few loud minutes, let alone frequent exposure, will be enough to cause a detrimental effect later on. The good news is protecting your ears from expected loud noises is pretty easy. Use hearing protection when you:
- Participate in loud activities.
- Go to a concert
- Ride a motorcycle
- Run power tools
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.
Control The Noise Around You
Even the items around your home can produce enough noise to be an issue over time. The noise rating should be taken into consideration before you invest in a new appliance. Try to use appliances that have a lower noise rating.
Don’t be afraid to speak up if the noise gets too loud when you’re at a restaurant or party. The host of the party, 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 noises like equipment, then do something about it. If your manager doesn’t provide hearing protection, buy your own. There are lots of products out there that will protect you such as:
There’s a good chance that if you mention your concern, your employer will listen.
Give up Smoking
There are lots of good reasons to quit smoking and you can add hearing loss to the long list. Studies reveal that smokers are much more likely to get age-related hearing loss. Second-hand smoke can also speed up hearing loss.
Check And Double Check Your Medications
Some medications are ototoxic, meaning they damage your ears. Several typical culprits include:
- Cardiac medication
- Certain antibiotics
- Mood stabilizers and antidepressants
- Narcotic analgesics
This list is a combination of over-the-counter products and prescription medications and it doesn’t cover all of them. Read the label of any pain relievers you purchase and take them only when necessary. If you are unsure about a drug, ask your doctor before taking it.
Treat Your Body Well
Regular exercise and a good diet are things you should do anyway but they are also relevant to your hearing health as well. Cut down on the amount of sodium you eat and take your medications to manage your high blood pressure. The better you care for your body, the lower your risk of chronic sicknesses that could cost you your hearing over time, like diabetes.
If you suspect you hear ringing in your ears or if you have some hearing loss, get your hearing examined. Pay close attention to your hearing because you might not even recognize that you may need 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.