It’s normal to have hearing loss as you grow older but does it need to happen? As they begin to grow older, most adults will begin to recognize a change in their hearing. After listening to sound for many years, you will notice even small changes in your hearing ability. Prevention is the best means of controlling the extent of the loss and how rapidly it advances, which is the case with most things in life. Your hearing can be affected later on in your life by the choices you make now. You should think about it now because you can still avoid further loss of hearing. You really want to keep your hearing from becoming worse, but what can you do?
Learn About Your Hearing Loss
It starts with recognizing how the ears work and what causes most loss of hearing. Age-related hearing loss, known medically as presbycusis, impacts one in three people in this country 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 enters the ear as pressure waves that are amplified several times before they reach the inner ear. Chemicals are secreted after being bumped by little hairs, which are in turn shaken by inbound waves of sound. These chemicals are interpreted by the brain as electrical signals, which are then “heard” by the brain as sound.
The downside to all this shaking and bumping is that 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. If there are no little hairs, there are no chemicals released to generate the electrical impulse which the brain translates as sound.
So, what leads to this damage to the hair cells? It can be considerably magnified by several factors but it can be anticipated, to varying degrees, with aging. Sound waves come in various strengths, however; that is what you know as volume. The louder the volume, the stronger the sound wave and the bigger the impact on the hair cells.
There are some other factors besides exposure to loud noise. Additionally, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other chronic diseases will take a toll.
Safeguarding Your Hearing
You need to rely on good hearing hygiene to protect your ears over time. The volume of sound is the biggest problem. Sound is much more dangerous when it’s at a louder volume or decibel level. You may think that it takes a very high decibel level to cause injury, but it doesn’t. If you find that you have to raise your voice to talk over a noise, it’s too loud.
Everyone deals with the occasional loud noise but continued exposure or even just a few loud minutes at a time is enough to affect your hearing later in life. Luckily, it’s quite easy to take precautions to protect your hearing when you know you’re going to be around loud sound. Wear hearing protection when you:
- Go to a performance
- Participate in loud activities.
- Run power equipment
- Ride a motorcycle
Avoid using accessories made to amplify and isolate sound, too, including headphones or earbuds. The old-fashioned way is a much safer way to listen to music and that means at a reduced volume.
Control The Noise Around You
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.
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 might be willing to turn down the background music for you or even move you to another table away from noisy speakers or clanging dishes.
Pay Attention to Noise Levels While at Work
If your job subjects you to loud sounds like equipment, you need to do something about it. Get your own ear protection if it’s not provided by your employer. Here are several products that can protect your ears:
The chances are good that if you bring up the concern, your boss will listen.
Add hearing to the long list of reasons you shouldn’t smoke. Studies demonstrate that cigarette smokers are much more likely to get age-related hearing loss. Second-hand smoke can also speed up hearing loss.
All The Medications That You Take Should be Closely Inspected
Certain medications are ototoxic, meaning they damage your hearing. Some typical culprits include:
- Mood stabilizers and antidepressants
- Certain antibiotics
- Cardiac medication
- Narcotic analgesics
This list is a combination of over-the-counter products and prescription medications and it doesn’t cover all of them. Read the label of any pain relievers you buy and take them only when necessary. If you are uncertain about a drug, consult your doctor before taking it.
Be Kind to Your Body
Regular exercise and a good diet are things you should do anyway but they are also important to your hearing health. If you have high blood pressure, do what you must to manage it like reducing your sodium 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 problems.
If you think you have hearing loss or if you hear ringing in your ears, get a hearing exam. Pay close attention to your hearing because you might not even realize that you need hearing aids. It’s never too late to take care of your ears, so if you notice any change, even a small one, schedule an appointment with a hearing care professional to find out what to do to keep it from getting worse.