Hearing loss is common for most people, but is it inevitable? As they begin to grow older, most adults will begin to recognize a change in their hearing ability. Even slight changes in your hearing will be able to be noticed after years of hearing sound. As with most things in life, though, prevention is the key to regulating the degree of that loss and how fast it advances. There are a few things you can do now that will impact your hearing later on in your life. It’s never too early to begin or too late to care when it comes to hearing health. What can you do to prevent your hearing loss from getting worse?
Get The Facts About Hearing Loss
It begins with learning about how the ears work and what causes most hearing loss. Age-related hearing loss, known medically as presbycusis, is affecting one in three people in America between the ages of 64 and 74. It is an accumulation of damage to the ears over the years. Presbycusis is slight at first and then gets progressively worse.
The ear canal amplifies waves of sound several times before they make it to the inner ear. Once there, the sound vibrates very small hairs cells, causing them to bump structures which release chemicals to create an electrical message which the brain interprets as sound.
The drawback to all this movement and oscillation is the hair cells eventually break down and stop working. Once these hair cells are gone they won’t grow back. The sound is not converted into a signal that the brain can understand without those little vibrating hairs.
How exactly do these hair cells become damaged? It can be greatly magnified by several factors but it can be expected, to some degree, with aging. How strong 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 besides exposure to loud noise. Chronic illnesses like high blood pressure and diabetes take a toll, as well.
How to Protect Your Hearing
You should depend 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 level the more damaging the noise. It doesn’t take as much as you might think to lead to hearing damage. If you notice that you have to raise your voice to talk over a noise, it’s too loud.
Your hearing can be impaired later on by even a couple of loud minutes and even more so by continued exposure. On the plus side, it’s pretty easy to take precautions to protect your hearing when you know you’re going to be around loud sound. Use hearing protection when you:
- Do something where the noise is loud.
- Go to a concert
- Run power equipment
- Ride a motorcycle
Avoid using devices made to amplify and isolate sound, also, including headphones or earbuds. Listen to music the old-fashioned way and at a lesser volume.
Day-to-Day Noises That Can Become an Issue
Over time, even everyday sounds will become a hearing threat. When you purchase an appliance for your home, check the noise rating of the product. It’s far better to use appliances with lower noise ratings.
If the noise gets too loud when you are out at a party or restaurant, don’t be scared to speak up. The party’s host, or possibly even the restaurant manager may be willing to help accommodate for your issue.
Be Noise Conscious While at Work
If your job exposes you to loud noises like equipment, you need to do something about it. If your company doesn’t provide hearing protection, buy your own. There are plenty of products out there that will protect you such as:
Your employer will probably listen if you bring up your concerns.
Give up Smoking
Put hearing health on the long list of reasons you shouldn’t smoke. Studies demonstrate that cigarette 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
Some medications are known to cause hearing damage. This is called ototoxicity. Several typical offenders include:
- Narcotic analgesics
- Mood stabilizers and antidepressants
- Certain antibiotics
- Cardiac medication
This list is a combination of over-the-counter products and prescription medications and it doesn’t cover all of them. If you use pain relievers, do so only when necessary and read the labels. Consult your doctor first if you are not certain.
Be Good to Your Body
To slow down hearing loss it’s especially important, as you get older, to do the normal things that keep you healthy, like eating right and getting regular exercise. Do what is necessary to manage your high blood pressure like taking your medication and decreasing salt intake. The better you care for your body, the lower your risk of chronic health problems that might 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 checked. You could need hearing aids and not even know it so pay attention to your hearing. Schedule an appointment with a hearing expert to keep any problems from getting worse. It’s not too late.