It’s typical to have hearing loss as you get older but is it necessary? As they get older, the vast majority of people will begin to recognize a change in their ability to hear. That change is simply the effect of many years of listening to sound. Prevention is the best method of controlling the extent of the loss and how rapidly it progresses, which is true of most things in life. Your hearing will be affected later in life by the things you decide to do now. It’s never too early to start or too late to care when it comes to ear health. What are the steps you can take right now to safeguard your hearing?
Understanding Hearing Loss
Understanding what causes most hearing loss begins with finding out how the ears work. Age-associated hearing loss, known medically as presbycusis, is affecting one in every three people in this country between the ages of 64 and 74. It is a cumulation of damage to the ears over the years. Presbycusis starts slowly and then gets worse over time.
Sound goes into the ear as waves that are amplified several times before they reach the inner ear. Chemicals are released after being bumped by little hairs, which are in turn shaken by incoming waves of sound. These chemicals are translated by the brain into electrical signals, which are then “heard” by the brain as sound.
All of this vibration inevitably causes the hairs to begin to break down and misfunction. These hair cells don’t heal themselves, either, so once they’re gone, they’re gone. Without those cells to produce the electrical impulses, the sound is never translated into a language the brain can comprehend.
How exactly do these hair cells get damaged? There are lots of contributing factors such as ordinary aging. Sound waves come in various strengths, however; that is what you know as volume. The higher the volume, the more powerful the sound wave and the bigger the injury to the hair cells.
There are some other considerations aside from exposure to loud sound. Also, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other chronic ailments will have a strong effect.
Protecting Your Hearing
Protecting your ears over time is dependent on good hearing hygiene. At the center of the issue is volume. Sound is a lot more hazardous when it’s at a higher volume or decibel level. It doesn’t take as much as you may think to lead to damage. If you notice that you have to raise your voice to talk over a noise, it’s too loud.
Even just a few loud minutes, let alone constant exposure, will be enough to have a detrimental effect later on. Taking precautions when you expect to be subjected to loud sound, luckily, is pretty easy. Use hearing protection when you:
- Run power equipment
- Participate in loud activities.
- Go to a performance
- Ride a motorcycle
Headphones, earbuds, and other devices made to isolate and amplify sound should be avoided. Partake of music the old-fashioned way and at a lesser volume.
Every-Day Noises That Can Become an Issue
Enough noise can be produced, even by common household sounds, to become a hearing hazard over time. When you buy an appliance for your house, consider the noise rating of the product. Try to use appliances that have a lower noise rating.
If the noise gets too loud when you are out at a party or restaurant, don’t be scared to let someone know. The party’s host, or maybe even the restaurant manager may be willing to help accommodate for your issue.
Pay Attention to Noise Levels at Work
When you’re working, protect your ears if your work-place is loud. If your company doesn’t provide hearing protection, get your own. There are a few products out there that are made to protect you such as:
Your employer will probably listen if you bring up your worries.
Hearing impairment is yet another good reason to give up smoking. Studies demonstrate that smokers are much more likely to experience age-related hearing loss. Second-hand smoke can also speed up hearing loss.
Check And Double Check Your Medications
Some medications are known to cause hearing damage. This is called ototoxicity. Several common culprits include:
- Mood stabilizers and antidepressants
- Certain antibiotics
- Cardiac medication
- Narcotic analgesics
The complete list is quite a bit longer than this and consists of prescription medication and over the counter medicines. If you take pain relievers, do so only when necessary and read the labels. If you are unsure about a drug, consult 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. Lessen 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 loss.
If you think you have hearing loss or if you hear ringing in your ears, get a hearing test. You might need hearing aids and not even know it so pay attention to your hearing. Schedule an appointment with a hearing expert to keep any issues from getting worse. It’s never too late.