It’s normal to have hearing loss as you get older but does it need to happen? The fact is, the majority of adults will begin to detect a change in their hearing as they age. That change is really the effect of a lot of years of listening to sound. The extent of the loss and how fast it advances is best controlled with prevention, which is true with most things in life. Your hearing can be affected later on in your life by the things you decide to do now. It’s never too early to start or too late to care when it comes to hearing health. What can you do to stop your hearing loss from getting worse?
Learn About Your Hearing Loss
Recognizing what causes most hearing loss starts with finding out how the ears work. Age-related hearing loss, known medically as presbycusis, impacts one in three people in this country from 64 to 74. It is an accumulation of damage to the ears over time. Presbycusis starts slowly and then gets progressively worse.
Sound goes into the ear as pressure waves that are amplified a number of times before they reach the inner ear. Once there, the sound shakes tiny hairs cells, causing them to bump structures that release chemicals to create an electrical message which the brain interprets as sound.
All of this vibration inevitably causes the hairs to begin to break down and malfunction. These hair cells won’t restore themselves, either, so once they’re gone, they don’t come back. The sound is not converted into a language that the brain can understand without those little vibrating hairs.
How exactly do these hair cells become damaged? It can be greatly increased by several factors but it can be expected, to varying degrees, with aging. Sound waves come in an assortment of strengths, however; that is what you know as volume. The louder the volume, the stronger the sound wave and the bigger the injury to the hair cells.
Direct exposure to loud noise isn’t the only consideration. Additionally, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other chronic illnesses will take a toll.
How to Protect Your Hearing
Safeguarding your ears over time is dependent on consistent hearing hygiene. Sound volume presents the biggest problem. Sound is measured using decibels and the higher the decibel level the more hazardous the noise. You may believe that it takes a very high volume to cause injury, but it actually doesn’t. You shouldn’t have to raise your voice to talk over another sound. If you do that sound is too loud.
Everyone has to cope with the random loud noise but frequent exposure or even just a few loud minutes at a time is sufficient to impact your hearing later in life. The good news is protecting your ears from expected loud noises is really easy. Use hearing protection when you:
- Ride a motorcycle
- Do something where the noise is loud.
- Go to a performance
- Run power tools
Avoid using accessories designed to amplify and isolate sound, also, including headphones and earbuds. A lower volume should be chosen and use regular speakers.
Manage The Noise Around You
Enough noise can be produced, even by common household sounds, to become a hearing threat over time. The noise rating should be checked before you get a new appliance. It’s far better to use equipment with lower noise ratings.
If the noise gets too loud while you are out at a party or restaurant, don’t be afraid to let someone know. The party’s host, or possibly even the restaurant manager might be willing to help accommodate for your issue.
Be Noise Conscious While at Work
Take the proper steps to safeguard your hearing if your job exposes you to loud noises. Invest in your own ear protection if it’s not provided by your manager. Here are a few products that can protect your hearing:
If you mention your situation, chances are your boss will listen.
Hearing impairment is yet another good reason to quit smoking. Studies show that smokers are much more likely to experience age-related hearing loss. If you are exposed to second-hand smoke this is also true.
Double Check Medications
Some medications are known to cause hearing damage. This is called ototoxicity. Some typical offenders include:
- Certain antibiotics
- Mood stabilizers and antidepressants
- Cardiac medication
- Narcotic analgesics
The complete list is quite a bit longer than this and consists of prescription medication and over the counter products. If you take pain relievers, do so only when necessary and read the labels. Ask your doctor first if you are not sure.
Be Good to Your Body
To prevent hearing loss it’s particularly important, as you get older, to do the normal things that keep you healthy, like eating right and exercising. If you have high blood pressure, do what you must to manage it like reducing your sodium consumption and taking the medication prescribed to you. You have a lower risk of chronic health problems, such as diabetes, if you take good care of your body and this leads to lower chances of hearing loss.
Finally, get your hearing tested if you think you might have hearing loss or if you hear ringing in your ears. The sooner you recognize 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 not too late.