Loss of hearing is normal for most people, but does it have to be that way? As they begin to grow older, most adults will notice a change in their hearing. Even small differences in your hearing ability will be able to be noticed after years of hearing sound. Like most things in life, though, prevention is the answer to managing the degree of that loss and how fast it progresses. There are things you can do now that will impact your hearing later on in your life. It’s never too soon to begin or too late to care when it comes to hearing health. You want to keep your hearing from becoming worse, but what can be done?
Learn About Your Hearing Loss
Knowing what causes the majority of hearing loss starts with finding out how the ears actually work. Age-associated hearing loss, medically known as presbycusis, is affecting one in three people in this country 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 comes into the ear in pressure waves that are amplified several times before they reach the inner ear. Once there, the sound vibrates tiny hairs cells, causing them to bump structures that release chemicals to create an electrical message which the brain interprets as sound.
The negative aspect to all this movement and oscillation is the hair cells ultimately break down and stop working. These hair cells won’t heal themselves, either, so once they’re gone, they don’t come back. The sound is not translated into a signal that the brain can understand without those little vibrating hairs.
So, what leads to this deterioration of the hair cells? It will happen, to some degree, with aging but there are other factors which will also contribute. How strong a sound wave is, is generally 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 sound isn’t the only factor. Also, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other chronic diseases will have a strong effect.
Protecting Your Hearing
Protecting your ears over time depends on consistent hearing hygiene. The volume of sound is the biggest problem. Sound is measured in decibels and the higher the decibel the more damaging the noise. It doesn’t have to be as loud as you may think to lead to damage. You shouldn’t need to raise your voice to talk over another sound. If you do that sound is too loud.
Everyone has to cope with the occasional loud noise but frequent exposure or even just a couple of loud minutes at a time is enough to impact your hearing later on. Luckily, it’s fairly easy to take precautions to protect your ears when you expect to be around loud sound. Use hearing protection when you:
- Run power tools
- Participate in loud activities.
- Go to a concert
- Ride a motorcycle
Headphones, earbuds, and other accessories made to isolate and amplify sound should be avoided. The old-fashioned way is a much safer way to partake of music and that means at a lower volume.
Day-to-Day Noises That Can be a Problem
Even the items around your house can make enough noise to be a problem over time. The noise rating should be checked before you buy a new appliance. Try to use appliances that have a lower noise rating.
If the noise gets too loud when you are out at a party or restaurant, don’t be scared to let someone know. A restaurant manager may be willing to turn the background music down for you or perhaps even move you to a different table away from loud speakers or clanging dishes.
Be Aware of Noise Levels at Work
If your job exposes you to loud noises like equipment, you should do something about it. Purchase your own hearing protection if it is not provided by your employer. There are plenty of products out there that are made to protect you such as:
Your employer will most likely be willing to listen if you bring up your concerns.
Hearing damage is yet another good reason to quit smoking. Studies reveal that cigarette smokers are much more likely to get age-related hearing loss. This is true if you are subjected to second-hand smoke, also.
Check And Double Check Your Medications
Some medications are ototoxic, meaning they damage your hearing. Several typical culprits include:
- Cardiac medication
- Antidepressants and mood stabilizers
- Narcotic analgesics
- Certain antibiotics
The true list is much longer than this one and consists of prescription medication as well as over the counter medicines. If you take pain relievers, do so only when necessary and check the labels. Consult your doctor first if you are not sure.
Be Kind to Your Body
The common things you should do anyway like eating a healthy diet and exercise are an important part of preventing hearing loss from getting worse, especially as you 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 body, the lower your risk of chronic illnesses 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, have your hearing checked. The sooner you know there is a problem, the sooner you can do something about it, such as getting hearing aids. Schedule an appointment with a hearing expert to keep any problems from getting even worse. It’s never too late.