It’s normal to have hearing loss as you get older but does it need to happen? The reality is, the majority of adults will start to perceive a change in their hearing as they age. After listening to sound for many years, you will start to notice even slight changes in your hearing ability. Just like most things in life, though, prevention is the key to regulating the extent of that loss and how quickly it progresses. Later in your life, the extent of your hearing loss will be determined by the decisions you make now. You should carefully consider it sooner than later because you can still lessen further hearing loss. What steps can you take now to safeguard your hearing?
Comprehending Hearing Loss
Knowing what causes the majority of hearing loss starts with learning how the ears work. Age-related hearing loss, known medically as presbycusis, affects one in every three people in this country between the ages of 64 and 74. It is a cumulation of damage to the ears over time. Presbycusis starts slowly and then gets progressively worse.
Sound comes into the ear in waves that are amplified several times before they get to the inner ear. Chemicals are released 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 pulses, which are then “heard” by the brain as sound.
Failing over time, because of the constant vibration, the tiny hairs eventually quit working. These hair cells don’t restore themselves, either, so once they’re gone, they’re gone. The sound is not converted into a signal that the brain can comprehend without those little vibrating hairs.
How exactly do these hair cells get damaged? It can be considerably increased by several factors but it can be expected, to varying degrees, with aging. How strong a sound wave is, is generally known as “volume”. The higher the volume, the more powerful the sound wave and the bigger the impact on the hair cells.
Direct exposure to loud sound isn’t the only factor. Chronic illnesses like high blood pressure and diabetes take a toll, as well.
Protecting Your Hearing
You need to rely on consistent hearing hygiene to take care of your ears over time. The volume of sound is the biggest problem. Sound is far more unsafe when it’s at a higher volume or decibel level. You may think that it takes a very loud volume to cause damage, but it doesn’t. A noise is too loud if you have to raise your voice to talk over it.
Even a few loud minutes, never mind continuous exposure, will be enough to cause an adverse effect later on. Fortunately protecting your hearing from expected loud noises is pretty easy. Wear hearing protection when you:
- Ride a motorcycle
- Run power equipment
- Go to a concert
- Participate in loud activities.
Headphones, earbuds, and other devices designed to isolate and amplify sound should be avoided. Partake of music the old-fashioned way and at a lesser volume.
Day-to-Day Noises That Can Become a Problem
Over time, even everyday sounds will become a hearing threat. When you get an appliance for your house, check the noise rating of the product. Try to use appliances that have a lower noise rating.
If the noise gets too loud when you are out at a party or restaurant, don’t be afraid to let someone know. A restaurant manager may be willing to turn down the background music for you or even move you to another table away from loud speakers or clanging dishes.
Pay Attention to Noise Levels at Work
If your job exposes you to loud noises like equipment, you should do something about it. If your boss doesn’t provide hearing protection, buy your own. Here are some products that can protect your hearing:
Your employer will most likely be willing to listen if you bring up your concerns.
Hearing damage is yet another good reason to stop smoking. Studies show that cigarette 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
- Narcotic analgesics
- Cardiac medication
- Antidepressants and mood stabilizers
The complete list is much longer than this one and consists of prescription medication and over the counter products. Only use pain relievers when you really need them and be sure to check all of the labels. Ask your doctor first if you are not certain.
Treat Your Body Well
The little things you should do anyway like eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly are a major part of preventing hearing loss from getting worse, especially as you start to get older. If you have high blood pressure, do what you must to manage it like reducing your salt intake and taking the medication prescribed to you. The better you take care of your health, the lower your chances of chronic sicknesses that could cost you your hearing over time, like diabetes.
Finally, get your hearing tested if you suspect you could have hearing loss or if you hear ringing in your ears. Pay close attention to your hearing because you may not even realize that you need hearing aids. It’s never too late to take care of your hearing, so if you notice any change, even a small one, schedule an appointment with a hearing care professional to find out what you can do to keep it from getting worse.