The strange part of hearing loss is that we don’t have a tendency to begin appreciating our favorite sounds until after we’ve lost the capability to clearly hear them. We don’t stop to think about, for example, how much we appreciate a good conversation with a friend until we have to continually ask them to repeat themselves.
Whether it’s your favorite Mozart record or the sounds of a Bluejay first thing in the morning, your quality of life is directly connected to your ability to hear—regardless of whether you recognize it or not. And if you wait until after you’ve lost your hearing to come to this recognition, you’re going to expend a whole lot of time and effort trying to get it back.
So how can you defend your ability to hear?
Here are 6 ways you could lose your hearing and what you can do about it.
1. Genetics and aging
Age-related hearing loss, also called presbycusis, is the loss of hearing that steadily develops as we grow older. Combined with presbycusis, there is also some evidence indicating that genetics plays a role, and that some of us are more prone to hearing loss than others.
While there’s not much you can do to halt the aging process or modify your genetics, you can protect against noise-induced hearing loss from the other sources identified below. And keep in mind that age-related hearing loss is considerably more complicated to treat if exacerbated by preventable damage.
Frequent exposure to sound levels above 85 decibels can result in permanent hearing loss, which is not-so-good news if you happen to drive a convertible. New research shows that driving a convertible with the top down at high speeds generates an average sound volume level of 90 decibels. Motorcyclists face even louder sounds and those who take the subway are at risk as well.
So does everyone either have to forego travel or live with permanent earplugs? Not exactly, but you should certainly look for ways to reduce your collective noise exposure during travel. If you own a convertible, roll up your car windows and drive a little slower; if you own a motorcycle, wear a helmet and think about earplugs; and if you ride the subway, consider purchasing noise-canceling headphones.
3. Going to work
As indicated by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), 22 million employees in the US are exposed to potentially damaging noise levels at work. The highest risk jobs are in manufacturing, farming, construction, the military, and the music industry.
The last thing you need is to spend your total work life accumulating hearing loss that will prevent you from enjoying your retirement. Discuss with your supervisor about its hearing protection plan, and if they don’t have one, speak with your local hearing specialist for customized solutions.
4. Taking drugs and smoking
Smoking impedes blood flow, among other things, which may enhance your risk of developing hearing loss—if you really needed another reason to stop smoking. Antibiotics, potent pain medications, and a large number of other drugs are “ototoxic,” or toxic to the cells of hearing. In fact, there are more than 200 known ototoxic medications.
The bottom line: avoid consuming ototoxic drugs or medications unless completely necessary. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions.
5. Listening to music
85 is turning out to be quite an inconvenient number. All of our favorite hobbies yield decibel levels just over this limit, and any sound over 85 decibels can cause hearing loss. If the threshold were just slightly higher, say 100 decibels, we wouldn’t have to worry about it so much.
But 85 it is. And portable mp3 players at full volume reach more than 100 decibels while rock concerts reach more than 110. The solution is straight forward: turn down your iPod, wear earplugs at concerts, and minimize your time of exposure to the music.
6. Getting sick or injured
Certain conditions, such as diabetes, together with any traumatic head injuries, places you at greater risk of developing hearing loss. If you have diabetes, regular exercise, a healthy diet, and continual monitoring of glucose levels is vital. And if you ride a motorcycle, wearing a helmet will help protect against traumatic head injuries.
Talk to Your Hearing Specialist
Although there are several ways to lose your hearing, a few straightforward lifestyle modifications can help you retain your hearing for life. Keep in mind: the minimal inconvenience of wearing custom earplugs, driving with the windows up, or turning down your iPod are small compared to the major inconvenience of hearing loss later in life.
Ready to take your hearing health seriously? Give us a call today.