Loss of hearing is normal for most people, but does it have to be that way? As they get older, the vast majority of adults will start to notice a change in their hearing. After listening to sound for years, you will begin to recognize even small changes in your hearing ability. As with most things in life, though, prevention is the key to regulating the extent of that loss and how quickly it advances. There are some things you can do now that will affect your hearing later on in life. It’s never too early to begin or too late to care when it comes to ear health. What can you do to stop your hearing loss from getting worse?
Learn About Your Hearing Loss
Learning how the ears work is the first step to knowing what causes most hearing loss. Age-associated hearing loss, known medically as presbycusis, is affecting one in every three people in the U.S. from 64 to 74. It is an accumulation of damage to the ears over the years. Presbycusis is slight at first and then gets progressively worse.
Sound enters the ear in waves that are amplified a number of times before they get to the inner ear. Sound waves oscillate little hairs that bump against chemical releasing structures. These chemicals are translated into electrical signals that the brain interprets as sound.
Breaking down over time, because of the constant vibration, the tiny hairs eventually quit. These hair cells won’t fix themselves, either, so once gone, they’re gone. If you lose those tiny hairs, there are no chemicals released to generate the electrical signal which the brain translates as sound.
What’s behind this hair cell damage? There are lots of contributing variables such as ordinary aging. The word “volume” refers to the strength of sound waves. More damage is done to the hair cells if they receive more powerful sound waves, and that means a higher volume of sound.
There are some other considerations besides exposure to loud noise. Chronic sicknesses like high blood pressure and diabetes have an affect, as well.
Safeguarding Your Hearing
Consistent hearing hygiene is an important part of protecting your hearing over time. Volume is at the heart of the issue. Sound is far more unsafe when it’s at a higher volume or decibel level. You may think that it takes a very high decibel level to cause injury, but it actually doesn’t. If you find that you have to raise your voice to talk over a noise, it’s too loud.
Everyone has to cope with the random loud noise but continued exposure or even just a few loud minutes at a time is enough to impact your hearing later on. The good news is protecting your hearing from expected loud noises is really easy. Wear hearing protection when you:
- Ride a motorcycle
- Run power equipment
- Go to a concert
- Do something where the noise is loud.
Avoid using devices made to amplify and isolate sound, too, including headphones or earbuds. The old-fashioned way is a safer way to listen to music and that means at a lower volume.
Control The Noise Around You
Over time, even everyday sounds can become a hearing threat. Nowadays, appliances and other home devices come with noise ratings. The lower the noise rating the better.
Don’t be afraid to speak up if the noise is too loud when you are at a restaurant or party. A restaurant manager might be willing to turn the background music down for you or perhaps even move you to another table away from noisy speakers or clanging dishes.
Be Conscious of Noise While at Work
If your job subjects you to loud noises like equipment, then do something about it. If your manager doesn’t provide hearing protection, invest in your own. Here are some products that can protect your hearing:
Your employer will most likely listen if you bring up your concerns.
There are lots of good reasons to give up smoking and you can add hearing loss to the list. 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.
Look Twice at Medications
Some medications are known to cause hearing damage. This is called ototoxicity. Some common culprits include:
- Certain antibiotics
- Narcotic analgesics
- Cardiac medication
- Antidepressants and mood stabilizers
This list is a combination of over-the-counter products and prescription medications and it’s not even all of them. If you use pain relievers, do so only when necessary and read the labels. Consult your doctor first if you are not sure.
Be Kind to Your Body
The common things you should do anyway like eating a healthy diet and exercise are a major part of preventing hearing loss from getting worse, particularly as you get older. Reduce the amount of salt you consume and take your medications to manage 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 think you have hearing loss or if you hear ringing in your ears. You might need hearing aids and not even know it so pay close attention to your hearing. Schedule an appointment with a hearing expert to keep any problems from getting even worse. It’s never too late.