Hearing loss is normal for most people, but does it have to be that way? The reality is, the majority of people will start to recognize a change in their hearing as they get older. Even small changes in your hearing will be able to be noticed after years of hearing sound. Prevention is the best means of managing the extent of the loss and how quickly it advances, which is the case with most things in life. Your hearing will be impacted later on in life by the things you decide to do now. As for your hearing health, it’s never too late to care or too early to begin. What steps can you take right now to protect your hearing?
Learn About Your Hearing Loss
Learning how the ears work is the first step to knowing what causes most hearing loss. Age-related hearing loss, medically known as presbycusis, is affecting one in three people in America between the ages of 64 and 74. It is a cumulation of damage to the ears over the years. Presbycusis is slight at first and then gets progressively worse.
Sound goes into the ear in waves that are amplified a number of times before they finally get to the inner ear. Sound waves move tiny hairs that bump against chemical releasing structures. These chemicals are transformed into electrical signals that the brain interprets as sound.
The downside to all this movement and oscillation is the hair cells eventually break down and stop working. These hair cells don’t restore themselves, either, so once gone, they’re gone. If you lose those little hairs, there are no chemicals released to generate the electrical impulse which the brain translates as sound.
What’s the story behind this hair cell destruction? It can be greatly magnified by several factors but it can be anticipated, to some degree, as a part of aging. How powerful a sound wave is, is generally known as “volume”. The higher the volume, the stronger the sound wave and the bigger the impact on the hair cells.
There are some other considerations apart from exposure to loud noise. Chronic sicknesses such as high blood pressure and diabetes take a toll, as well.
Safeguarding Your Hearing
Safeguarding your hearing over time depends on good hearing hygiene. Sound volume presents the biggest problem. When sound is at a higher volume or decibel level, it is significantly more detrimental to the ears. You may believe that it takes a very high decibel level to cause injury, but it actually doesn’t. A noise is too loud if you have to raise your voice to talk over it.
Even a few loud minutes, not to mention constant exposure, will be enough to have an adverse effect later on. Taking precautions when you expect to be exposed to loud sound, luckily, is pretty easy. Wear hearing protection when you:
- Ride a motorcycle
- Run power tools
- Participate in loud activities.
- Go to a performance
Headphones, earbuds, and other accessories 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 lower volume.
Every-Day Noises That Can Become an Issue
Over time, even everyday sounds can become a hearing hazard. The noise rating should be taken into consideration before you buy a new appliance. It’s much 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 let someone know. A restaurant manager might be willing to turn down the background music for you or possibly even move you to a different table away from noisy speakers or clanging dishes.
Be Aware of Noise Levels at Work
Take steps to safeguard your hearing if your job subjects you to loud noises. If your company doesn’t provide hearing protection, get your own. Here are several products that can protect your hearing:
The chances are good that if you bring up the concern, your manager will listen.
Give up Smoking
Hearing impairment is yet another good reason to stop smoking. Studies demonstrate that smokers are much more likely to experience age-related hearing loss. This is true if you are subjected to second-hand smoke, as well.
Check And Double Check Your Medications
Some medications are known to cause hearing damage. This is called ototoxicity. Some common offenders include:
- Antidepressants and mood stabilizers
- Cardiac medication
- Certain antibiotics
- Narcotic analgesics
This list is a combination of over-the-counter products and prescription medications and it’s not even all of them. If you use pain relievers, do so only when necessary and check the labels. Consult your doctor first if you are not sure.
Take Good Care of Your Body
Exercising and eating right are things you should do for your general health but they are also relevant to your hearing health. If you have high blood pressure, do what you can to manage it like reducing your sodium intake and taking the medication prescribed to you. The better you take care of your health, the lower your chances of chronic sicknesses that could cost you your hearing over time, like diabetes.
If you have hearing loss or if you hear ringing in your ears, get a hearing test. You might need hearing aids and not even know it so pay close attention to your hearing. Schedule an appointment with a hearing expert to keep any problems from getting worse. It’s never too late.