Hearing loss is not actually inevitable, although it is common. As they get older, the vast majority of adults will begin to recognize a change in their ability to hear. After listening to sound for years, you will start to notice even slight changes in your ability to hear. Just like most things in life, though, prevention is the answer to managing the degree of that loss and how fast it progresses. Your hearing will be affected later on in your life by the things you decide to do now. Concerning the health of your ears, it’s never too late to care or too early to start. What can be done to keep your hearing loss from getting worse?
Understanding Hearing Loss
It begins with understanding how the ears work and what causes most loss of hearing. Age-related hearing loss, medically known as presbycusis, impacts one in every three people in the U.S. between the ages of 64 and 74. It is an accumulation of damage to the ears over time. Presbycusis is slight at first and then gets progressively worse.
Sound waves reach the inner ear only after having been amplified several times by the ear canal. Sound waves jiggle tiny hairs which bump against chemical releasing structures. These chemicals are transformed into electrical signals which the brain interprets as sound.
The downside to all this movement and bumping is that the hair cells ultimately break down and stop working. When these hair cells are destroyed, they are gone for good. Without those cells to generate the electrical impulses, the sound can’t be translated into a language the brain can understand.
How exactly do these hair cells get damaged? It can be considerably increased by several factors but it can be expected, to some degree, as a part of aging. Sound waves come in an assortment of strengths, though; that is what’s known as volume. The higher the volume, the more powerful the sound wave and the bigger the impact on the hair cells.
There are some other considerations besides exposure to loud sound. Chronic sicknesses like high blood pressure and diabetes have an affect, as well.
Safeguarding 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 measured using decibels and the higher the decibel level the more dangerous the noise. Damage is caused at a far lower decibel level then you might think. You shouldn’t have to raise your voice to talk over another sound. If you do that sound is too loud.
Even a few loud minutes, let alone continued exposure, will be enough to cause a detrimental effect later on. Taking precautions when you expect to be exposed to loud sound, fortunately, is pretty simple. Wear hearing protection when you:
- Go to a performance
- Ride a motorcycle
- Run power tools
- Participate in loud activities.
Avoid using accessories designed to amplify and isolate sound, too, like headphones and earbuds. Partake of music the old-fashioned way and at a lower volume.
Every-Day Noises That Can Become an Issue
Enough noise can be produced, even by every-day household sounds, to become a hearing threat over time. When you get an appliance for your home, check the noise rating of the product. The lower the rating the better.
When you are out at a restaurant or party, don’t be scared to tell someone if the noise is too loud. A restaurant manager may be willing to turn down the background music for you or perhaps even move you to another table away from noisy speakers or clanging dishes.
Be Aware of Noise Levels at Work
Take steps to safeguard your hearing if your job exposes you to loud sounds. Buy your own ear protection if it’s not provided by your employer. Here are some products that will protect your hearing:
Your employer will probably be willing to listen if you bring up your worries.
There are lots of good reasons to give up smoking and you can add hearing loss to the long list. Studies demonstrate 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.
Check And Double Check Your Medications
Ototoxic medications are known to cause damage to your ears. Some common culprits include:
- Narcotic analgesics
- Antidepressants and mood stabilizers
- Certain antibiotics
- Cardiac medication
This list is a combination of over-the-counter products and prescription medications and it doesn’t cover all of them. If you take pain relievers, do so only when necessary and check the labels. Ask your doctor first if you are uncertain.
Be Good to Your Body
The common things you should do anyway like eating right and exercising regularly are an essential part of preventing hearing loss from getting worse, particularly as you start to get older. Do what is required to manage your high blood pressure like taking your medication and reducing salt consumption. You have a lower risk of chronic health problems, such as diabetes, if you take good care of your body and this leads to lower chances of hearing problems.
If you have hearing loss or if you hear ringing in your ears, get a hearing exam. The sooner you recognize you have a problem, the sooner you can do something about it, like getting hearing aids. It’s never too late to start taking care of your ears, so if you notice a 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 more serious.