Hearing loss is not actually inevitable, although it is common. The reality is, the majority of people will start to become aware of a change in their hearing as they get older. Even small differences in your ability to hear will be able to be noticed after years of hearing sound. Prevention is the best means of controlling the extent of the loss and how rapidly it progresses, which is the case with most things in life. Later on in your life, the extent of your hearing loss will be determined by the choices you make now. In terms of the health of your ears, it’s never too late to care or too early to start. What can be done to keep your hearing loss from becoming worse?
Understanding Hearing Loss
It starts with learning about how hearing works and what causes most loss of hearing. Age-related hearing loss, medically known as presbycusis, is affecting one in every three people in America from 64 to 74. It is an accumulation of damage to the ears over time. 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 shakes tiny hairs cells, causing them to bump into structures that release chemicals to create an electrical message which the brain translates into sound.
Malfunctioning over time, due to the constant vibration, the tiny hairs eventually quit working. Once these hair cells are lost they won’t grow back. If you lose those little hairs, there are no chemicals released to create the electrical impulse which the brain translates as sound.
How exactly do these hair cells become damaged? It will happen, to some degree, with normal aging but there are other factors which will also contribute. How strong a sound wave is, is generally 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.
Exposure to loud noise isn’t the only factor. Chronic diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes have an affect, as well.
Protecting Your Hearing
Consistent hearing hygiene is an important part of taking care of your hearing over time. Volume is at the heart of the problem. When sound is at a higher volume or decibel level, it is exponentially more harmful to the ears. It doesn’t take as much as you may 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 will be impaired later on by even a few loud minutes and even more so by constant exposure. Luckily, it’s quite easy to take safety measures to protect your ears when you know you’re going to be exposed to loud sound. Wear hearing protection when you:
- Ride a motorcycle
- Go to a concert
- Participate in loud activities.
- Run power tools
Headphones, earbuds, and other accessories made to isolate and amplify sound should be avoided. Partake of music the old-fashioned way and at a lesser volume.
Every-Day Noises That Can be an Issue
Over time, even everyday sounds can become a hearing threat. The noise rating should be checked before you invest in a new appliance. Try to use appliances that have a lower noise rating.
If you are out at a crowded restaurant or party, don’t be scared to tell someone if the noise gets too loud. The party’s host, or maybe even the restaurant manager will probably be willing to help accommodate for your issue.
Pay Attention to Noise Levels While at Work
When you’re working, protect your ears if your work-place is loud. Purchase your own ear protection if it’s not provided by your employer. Here are several products that can protect your ears:
There’s a good chance that if you mention your concern, your manager will listen.
Put hearing health on the list of reasons to quit smoking. Studies reveal that smokers are much more likely to get age-related hearing loss. Second-hand smoke can also speed up hearing loss.
Check And Double Check Your Medications
Some medications are known to cause hearing damage. This is called ototoxicity. Some typical offenders include:
- Certain antibiotics
- Cardiac medication
- Narcotic analgesics
- Antidepressants and mood stabilizers
There are many others that go on this list, among them some over the counter and some prescription medications. Read the label of any pain relievers you purchase and use them only when you really need them. Ask your doctor first if you are uncertain.
Take Good Care of Your Health
The common things you should do anyway like eating a healthy diet and exercise are an essential part of preventing hearing loss from getting worse, particularly as you start to get older. If you have high blood pressure, do what you can to manage it like lowering your salt intake and taking the medication prescribed to you. 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 loss.
If you have hearing loss or if you hear ringing in your ears, get a hearing test. Pay close attention to your hearing because you may not even realize that you may need 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.