Loss of hearing is common for most people, but is it inevitable? The fact is, the majority of people will begin to recognize a change in their hearing as they age. After listening to sound for many years, you will start to notice even small changes in your ability to hear. The extent of the loss and how quickly it progresses is best controlled with prevention, as is true with most things in life. There are a few things you can do now that will affect your hearing later in your life. It’s never too early 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 you do?
Get The Facts About Hearing Loss
Understanding what causes most hearing loss begins with learning how the ears work. Age-associated hearing loss, medically known as presbycusis, is affecting one in three people in this country from 64 to 74. It is a cumulation of damage to the ears over time. Presbycusis is slight at first and then gets progressively worse.
Sound comes into the ear as waves that are amplified several times before they get to the inner ear. Sound waves oscillate little hairs that bump against chemical releasing structures. These chemicals are transformed into electrical signals which the brain interprets as sound.
All of this shaking eventually causes the hairs to begin to break down and malfunction. When these hair cells are destroyed, they are gone for good. Without those cells to produce the electrical impulses, the sound can’t be translated into a language the brain can comprehend.
How exactly do these hair cells become damaged? It can be greatly magnified by several factors but it can be expected, to some degree, as a part of aging. How strong a sound wave is, is 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.
Direct exposure to loud noise isn’t the only factor. Chronic diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes have an affect, as well.
How to Take Care Of Your Hearing
Protecting your hearing over time depends on good hearing hygiene. Volume is at the heart of the issue. Sound is measured in decibels and the higher the decibel the more hazardous the noise. Damage happens at a substantially lower decibel level then you may realize. If you find that you have to raise your voice to talk over a noise, it’s too loud.
Your hearing can be impacted later on by even a couple of loud minutes and even more so by continued exposure. Luckily, it’s fairly easy to take precautions to protect your ears when you know you’re going to be around loud sound. Use hearing protection when you:
- Run power tools
- Ride a motorcycle
- Go to a performance
- Do something where the noise is loud.
Headphones, earbuds, and other accessories made to isolate and amplify sound should be avoided. A reduced volume should be chosen and use conventional speakers.
Every-Day Noises That Can Become a Problem
Enough noise can be produced, even by every-day household sounds, to become a hearing hazard over time. Nowadays, appliances and other home devices have noise ratings. Try to use appliances that have a lower noise rating.
When you are out at a crowded restaurant or party, don’t be scared to tell someone if the noise is too loud. The host of the party, or possibly even the restaurant manager will probably be willing to help accommodate for your issue.
Be Noise Conscious When You Are at Work
Take steps to protect your hearing if your job exposes you to loud noises. Get your own ear protection if it’s not provided by your employer. Here are a few products that can protect your hearing:
Your employer will most likely listen if you bring up your worries.
Give up Smoking
Put hearing health on the long list of reasons you shouldn’t smoke. Studies demonstrate that smokers are much more likely to experience age-related hearing loss. If you are exposed to second-hand smoke this is also true.
All The Medications That You Take Should be Closely Evaluated
Certain medications are ototoxic, meaning they can cause damage to your hearing. Several common culprits include:
- Antidepressants and mood stabilizers
- Cardiac medication
- Narcotic analgesics
- Certain antibiotics
There are many others that go on this list, among them some over the counter and some prescription medications. If you take pain relievers, do so only when necessary and read the labels. If you are not sure about a drug, consult your doctor before taking it.
Treat Your Body Well
To slow down hearing loss it’s especially important, as you get older, to do the normal things that keep you healthy, like eating well and exercising. Lower the amount of sodium you eat and take your medications to deal with your high blood pressure. You have a lower risk of chronic illness, such as diabetes, if you take good care of your body and this leads to lower chances of hearing problems.
Finally, get your hearing examined if you suspect you may have hearing loss or if you hear ringing in your ears. The sooner you acknowledge you have a problem, the sooner you can do something about it, such as getting hearing aids. If you observe any changes in your hearing, schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist. It’s never too late to take care of your hearing.