Hearing loss is common for the majority of people, but does it have to be that way? As they begin to grow older, most adults will begin to recognize a subtle change in their hearing. After listening to sound for many years, you will begin to recognize even slight changes in your ability to hear. Prevention is the best way of controlling the extent of the loss and how rapidly it progresses, which is the case with most things in life. Your hearing can be affected later in your life by the things you decide to do now. As for the health of your ears, it’s never too late to care or too soon to start. You want to keep your hearing from getting worse, but what can you do?
Get The Facts About Hearing Loss
Understanding what causes most hearing loss starts with learning 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.
The ear canal amplifies sound waves several times before they reach the inner ear. Once there, the sound vibrates very small hairs cells, causing them to bump into structures which release chemicals to create an electrical message which the brain interprets as sound.
The negative aspect to all this movement and bumping is that the hair cells eventually break down and stop working. Once these hair cells are gone they won’t come back. The sound is not translated into a language that the brain can understand without those little vibrating hairs.
What’s the story behind this hair cell destruction? It will happen, to varying degrees, with aging but there are other things which will also contribute. Sound waves come in countless strengths, though; that is what you know as volume. If the sound is at a higher volume, then the strength of the sound wave is greater, and the hair cells take more damage.
Exposure to loud noise isn’t the only factor. Also, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other chronic diseases will have a strong effect.
How to Take Care Of Your Hearing
Good hearing hygiene is an important part of taking care of your hearing over time. Volume is at the heart of the problem. Sound is a lot more unsafe when it’s at a louder volume or decibel level. Damage happens at a far lower decibel level then you would realize. You shouldn’t need to raise your voice to talk over another sound. If you do that sound is too loud.
Everyone has to cope with the occasional loud noise but frequent exposure or even just a couple of loud minutes at a time is enough to affect your hearing later in life. The good news is protecting your ears from expected loud noises is pretty easy. Wear hearing protection when you:
- Run power equipment
- Ride a motorcycle
- Go to a performance
- Participate in loud activities.
Headphones, earbuds, and other devices made to isolate and amplify sound should be avoided. The old-fashioned way is a less dangerous way to partake of music and that means at a lower volume.
Control The Noise Around You
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 get a new appliance. The lower the rating the better.
Don’t worry about speaking up if the noise is too loud when you are at a restaurant or party. The party’s host, or perhaps even the restaurant manager might be willing to help accommodate for your issue.
Be Aware of Noise Levels at Work
At work, protect your ears if your job is loud. If your company doesn’t provide hearing protection, invest in your own. Here are several products that can protect your hearing:
Your employer will probably be willing to listen if you bring up your concerns.
There are lots of good reasons to quit smoking and you can add hearing loss to the list. Studies show that smokers are much more likely to get age-related hearing loss. Second-hand smoke can also speed up hearing loss.
Look Twice at Medications
Ototoxic medications are known to cause damage to your ears. A few typical culprits include:
- Cardiac medication
- Certain antibiotics
- Narcotic analgesics
- Mood stabilizers and antidepressants
This list is a combination of over-the-counter products and prescription medications and it doesn’t cover all of them. If you use pain relievers, do so only when necessary and read the labels. If you are not sure about a drug, ask your doctor before taking it.
Treat Your Body Well
Exercising and eating right are things you should do anyway but they are also essential to your hearing health as well. Lower the amount of salt you consume and take your medications to manage your high blood pressure. The better you take care of your body, the lower your chances of chronic health problems that could cost you your hearing over time, like diabetes.
If you think you hear ringing in your ears or if you have some hearing loss, have your hearing checked. You could 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 worse. It’s not too late.