Loss of hearing is normal for most people, but does it have to be that way? As they age, most adults will notice a subtle change in their hearing ability. After listening to sound for years, you will begin to recognize even slight changes in your ability to hear. The degree of the loss and how fast it advances is best managed with prevention, as is true with most things in life. Your hearing will be affected later on in life by the things you decide to do now. Concerning the health of your ears, it’s never too late to care or too early to begin. What are the steps you can take right now to safeguard your hearing?
Learn About Your Hearing Loss
It starts with knowing how hearing works and what causes most loss of hearing. Age-associated hearing loss, medically known as presbycusis, affects one in every three people in the U.S. between the ages of 64 and 74. It is an accumulation of damage to the ears over time. Presbycusis starts slowly and then gets worse over time.
Sound comes into the ear in waves that are amplified a number of times before they finally get to the inner ear. Chemicals are secreted after being bumped into by little hairs, which are in turn shaken by inbound waves of sound. These chemicals are translated by the brain into electrical signals, which are then “heard” by the brain as sound.
The downside to all this movement and oscillation is that the hair cells ultimately break down and stop working. These hair cells don’t fix themselves, either, so once they’re gone, they’re gone. The sound is not translated into a language that the brain can understand without those little vibrating hairs.
How exactly do these hair cells become damaged? There are several contributing factors including ordinary aging. Sound waves come in an assortment of strengths, however; that is what’s 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.
Loud sound is definitely a factor but there are others too. Chronic diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes have an affect, as well.
Protecting Your Hearing
You should depend on strong hearing hygiene to protect your ears over time. At the root of the problem is volume. Sound is much more unsafe when it’s at a louder volume or decibel level. You might think that it takes a very high decibel level to cause injury, but it actually doesn’t. If you notice that you have to raise your voice to talk over a noise, it’s too loud.
Your hearing will be impacted later on by even a couple of loud minutes and even more so by continued exposure. Fortunately protecting your ears from expected loud noises is fairly easy. Wear hearing protection when you:
- Do something where the noise is loud.
- Go to a concert
- Ride a motorcycle
- Run power tools
Avoid using devices made to amplify and isolate sound, too, including headphones or earbuds. The old-fashioned way is a less dangerous way to listen to music and that means at a reduced volume.
Manage The Noise Around You
Even the things around your house can generate enough noise to become 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.
Don’t worry about speaking up if the noise is too loud when you’re at a restaurant or party. A restaurant manager might be willing to turn down the background music for you or maybe even move you to a different table away from loud speakers or clanging dishes.
Be Conscious of Noise While at Work
At work, protect your ears if your work-place is loud. Purchase your own hearing protection if it’s not provided by your boss. There are a few products out there that are made to protect you such as:
Your employer will probably listen if you bring up your worries.
Give up Smoking
Add hearing to the list of reasons to quit smoking. Studies demonstrate that cigarette smokers are much more likely to experience age-related hearing loss. If you are subjected to second-hand smoke this is also true.
Double Check Medications
Ototoxic medications are known to cause damage to your ears. Some typical culprits include:
- Narcotic analgesics
- Antidepressants and mood stabilizers
- Cardiac medication
- Certain antibiotics
The complete list is quite a bit longer than this and consists of prescription medication as well as over the counter products. If you use pain relievers, do so only when necessary and read the labels. If you are unsure about a drug, consult your doctor before taking it.
Be Good to Your Body
Regular exercise and a good diet are things you should do for your general health but they are also important to your hearing health as well. Do what is necessary to deal with your high blood pressure like taking your medication and decreasing salt intake. The better you care for your health, the lower your chances of chronic sicknesses that might cost you your hearing over time, like diabetes.
If you think you have hearing loss or if you have ringing in your ears, get your hearing tested. The sooner you know there is a problem, the sooner you can do something about it, like getting hearing aids. Schedule an appointment with a hearing expert to keep any issues from getting even worse. It’s never too late.