Hearing loss is normal for most people, but does it have to be that way? The reality is, the majority of adults will start to perceive a change in their hearing as they get older. That change is just the effect of years and years of listening to sound. The degree of the loss and how rapidly it advances is best controlled with prevention, as is true with most things in life. 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 are the steps you can take right now to protect your hearing?
Learn About Your Hearing Loss
Understanding how the ears actually work is step one to knowing what causes most hearing loss. Age-associated hearing loss, known medically as presbycusis, affects one in every three people in this country 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 enters the ear as pressure waves that are amplified several times before they reach the inner ear. Sound waves wiggle very little hairs which bump against chemical releasing structures. These chemicals are transformed into electrical signals which the brain interprets as sound.
The negative aspect to all this movement and oscillation is the hair cells ultimately break down and stop working. These hair cells don’t restore themselves, either, so once they’re gone, they don’t come back. Without those cells to generate the electrical signals, the sound can’t be translated into a language the brain can understand.
So, what brings about this damage to the hair cells? There are numerous contributing variables including ordinary aging. The term “volume” refers to the strength of sound waves. The louder the volume, the more powerful the sound wave and the bigger the impact on the hair cells.
Loud sound is undoubtedly a consideration but there are others too. Chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure and diabetes take a toll, as well.
How to Protect Your Hearing
Good hearing hygiene is a big part of taking care of your ears over time. At the center of the problem is volume. Sound is measured using decibels and the higher the decibel the more dangerous the noise. It doesn’t have to be as loud 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.
Even a few loud minutes, not to mention continuous exposure, will be enough to have an adverse effect later on. Luckily, it’s quite easy to take safety measures to protect your hearing when you know you’re going to be around loud sound. Wear hearing protection when you:
- Do something where the noise is loud.
- Go to a concert
- Run power equipment
- Ride a motorcycle
Headphones, earbuds, and other devices made to isolate and amplify sound should be avoided. A reduced volume should be chosen and use conventional speakers.
Every-Day Noises That Can be an Issue
Enough noise can be produced, even by every-day household sounds, to become a hearing hazard over time. The noise rating should be checked before you invest in a new appliance. The lower the rating the better.
If you are out at a crowded restaurant or party, don’t be scared to speak up if the noise gets too loud. 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.
Pay Attention to Noise Levels While at Work
When you’re working, protect your ears if your job is loud. Buy your own ear protection if it’s not provided by your employer. There are plenty of products out there that will protect you such as:
The chances are good that if you bring up the concern, your boss will listen.
Put hearing health on the list of reasons to quit smoking. Studies reveal that cigarette smokers are much more likely to get age-related hearing loss. Second-hand smoke can also speed up hearing loss.
Look Twice at Medications
Many medications are ototoxic, meaning they can cause damage to your hearing. Some typical offenders include:
- Certain antibiotics
- Mood stabilizers and antidepressants
- Narcotic analgesics
- Cardiac medication
There are many others that go on this list, including some over the counter and some prescription medications. If you take pain relievers, do so only when necessary and read the labels. If you are uncertain about a drug, ask your doctor before taking it.
Be Kind to Your Body
Exercising and eating right are things you should do anyway but they are also relevant to your hearing health as well. If you have high blood pressure, do what you must to manage it like reducing your salt consumption 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 suspect you hear ringing in your ears or if you have some hearing loss, have your hearing examined. The sooner you realize you have a problem, the sooner you can do something about it, such as getting hearing aids. If you detect any changes in your hearing, schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist. It’s not too late to take care of your hearing.