As you got older, you probably started to connect hearing loss with aging. You likely had older adults around you trying to understand words or wearing hearing aids.
But in the same way as 30 or 60 only seemed old to you until it started to catch up to you, as you become more aware about hearing loss, you find it has less to do with getting old and much more to do with something else.
This is the one thing you should know: It doesn’t make you old just because you admit you have hearing loss.
Hearing Loss is an Ailment That Can Take Place at Any Age
By the age of 12, audiologists can already identify some hearing loss in 13% of cases. You’ll agree, this isn’t because a 12 year old is “old”. In the past 30 years, hearing loss in teenagers has gone up by 33 %.
What’s the cause of this?
Disabling hearing loss has already set in for 2% of individuals between the ages of 45 and 55 and 8% of people between 55 and 64.
It’s not an aging problem. What you may consider an age-related hearing loss is 100% preventable. And decreasing its development is well within your ability.
Noise exposure is the typical cause of age associated or “sensorineural” hearing loss.
Hearing loss was, for decades, assumed to be an unavoidable part of aging. But today, science understands more about how to protect your hearing and even restore it.
How Hearing Loss is Caused by Noise
Understanding how noise causes hearing loss is the first step in safeguarding hearing.
Waves are what sound is composed of. These waves travel into your ear canal. They arrive at your inner ear after passing your eardrum.
In your inner ear are very small hair cells that vibrate when sound impacts them. The speed and intensity of these vibrations then encode a neurological signal. Your brain can convert this code into words, rushing water, a car horn, a cry or whatever else you may hear.
But when the inner ear receives sounds that are too intense, these hair cells oscillate too rapidly. The sound shakes them to death.
Without them, you won’t be able to hear.
Noise-Activated Hearing Loss is Permanent, Here’s Why
Wounds such as cuts or broken bones will heal. But these tiny hair cells won’t heal or grow back. The more often you’re exposed to loud noise, the more tiny hair cells die.
Hearing loss worsens as they do.
every day Noises That Damage Hearing
Most people don’t realize that hearing loss can be caused by every day noises. You may not think twice about:
- Putting the windows or top down on a busy highway
- Going to a movie/play/concert
- Turning the car stereo way up
- Lawn mowing
- Using farm equipment
- Using head phones/earbuds
- Playing in a band
- Riding a snowmobile/motorcycle
- Going to a noisy workplace
You can continue to do these things. Thankfully, you can take protective actions to limit noise-induced hearing loss.
How to Make Sure You Don’t “Feel” Older When You Have Hearing Loss
Acknowledging that you have hearing loss, if you’re already dealing with it, doesn’t need to make you feel old. In fact, failing to accept it can doom you to faster development and complications that “will” make you feel a lot older in only a few years like:
- Strained relationships
- More frequent trips to the ER
- Social Isolation
- Increased Fall Risk
These are all considerably more prevalent in individuals with untreated hearing loss.
Ways You Can Prevent Additional Hearing Problems
Understanding how to stop hearing loss is the initial step.
- Get a sound meter app on your smartphone. Find out how loud things actually are.
- Find out when volumes get dangerous. Above 85 dB (decibels) can result in irreversible hearing loss in 8 hours. Lasting hearing loss, at 110 dB, happens in about 15 minutes. Instant hearing loss happens at 120dB or higher. 140 to 170 dB is the average level of a gunshot.
- Recognize that If you’ve ever had trouble hearing for a while after a concert, you’ve already generated lasting damage to your hearing. The more often it occurs, the worse it gets.
- Wear earplugs and/or sound-dampening earmuffs when necessary.
- Respect work hearing protection rules.
- Regulate your exposure time to loud sounds.
- Avoid standing near loudspeakers or turning speakers up at home.
- Get earbuds/headphones that have integrated volume control. They have a 90 dB upper limit. At that volume, even nonstop, all day listening wouldn’t cause hearing damage for most people.
- Even at lower levels, if you are taking some common medications, have high blood pressure, or have low blood oxygen, you’re hearing could still be in peril. Always keep your headphones at or below 50%. Car speakers vary.
- Use your hearing aid. Not using hearing aids when you need them results in brain atrophy. It works the same as the muscles in your body. If you let them go, it will be difficult to get them back.
Have a Hearing Exam
Are you procrastinating or in denial? Don’t do it. Be active about reducing further harm by recognizing your situation.
Consult Your Hearing Professional About Solutions For Your Hearing.
Hearing loss has no “natural cure”. It may be time to get a hearing aid if your hearing loss is extreme.
Do a Cost-Benefit Comparison of Investing in Hearing Aids
Lots of people are either in denial concerning hearing loss, or they decide to “tough it out”. They think hearing aids make them seem old. Or they think they cost too much.
But when they realize that hearing loss will get worse faster and can cause numerous relationship and health complications, it’s easy to see that the pros well outnumber the cons.
Consult a hearing care expert today about getting a hearing exam. And if hearing aids are recommended, don’t worry about “feeling old”. Hearing aids nowadays are much sleeker and more advanced than you may think!