It’s typical to have hearing loss as you grow older but is it necessary? As they age, most adults will start to notice a subtle change in their hearing ability. That change is simply the effect of years and years of listening to sound. The degree of the loss and how rapidly it progresses is best controlled with prevention, which is true with most things in life. Later in life, how bad your hearing loss is will depend on the choices you make now. As for your hearing health, it’s never too late to care or too early to begin. You want to keep your hearing from getting worse, but what can be done?
Get The Facts About Hearing Loss
Learning how the ears work is the first step to knowing what causes most hearing loss. Age-related hearing loss, known medically as presbycusis, is affecting one in every three people in this country from 64 to 74. It is a cumulation of damage to the ears over the years. Presbycusis starts slowly and then gets progressively worse.
The ear canal amplifies waves of sound several times before they get to the inner ear. Sound waves jiggle very little hairs that bump into chemical releasing structures. These chemicals are transformed into electrical signals which the brain interprets as sound.
All of this vibration inevitably causes the hairs to start to break down and malfunction. Once these hair cells are gone they won’t come back. If there are no tiny hairs, there are no chemicals released to generate the electrical impulse which the brain translates as sound.
What’s the story behind this hair cell destruction? There are a lot of contributing variables like normal aging. How strong a sound wave is, is known as “volume”. If the sound is at a higher volume, then the force of the sound wave is greater, and the hair cells take more damage.
Exposure to loud sound isn’t the only factor. Also, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other chronic ailments will take a toll.
Protecting Your Hearing
Protecting your hearing over time depends on good hearing hygiene. Volume is at the heart of the problem. Sound is measured using decibels and the higher the decibel the more hazardous the noise. Damage happens at a much lower decibel level then you would think. You shouldn’t need to raise your voice to talk over another sound. If you do that sound is too loud.
Your hearing can be affected later on by even a few loud minutes and even more so by continued exposure. The good news is protecting your ears from expected loud noises is really easy. Wear hearing protection when you:
- Ride a motorcycle
- Run power equipment
- Do something where the noise is loud.
- Go to a concert
Avoid using accessories made to amplify and isolate sound, too, like headphones or earbuds. The old-fashioned way is a much safer way to partake of music and that means at a reduced volume.
Every-Day Noises That Can Become an Issue
Over time, even everyday sounds can become a hearing hazard. Presently, appliances and other home devices come with noise ratings. The lower the rating the better.
Don’t worry about speaking up if the noise gets too loud when you are at a restaurant or party. A restaurant manager may be willing to turn down the background music for you or possibly even move you to a different table away from loud speakers or clanging dishes.
Be Aware of Noise Levels at Work
Take the proper steps to safeguard your hearing if your job exposes you to loud sounds. Purchase your own ear protection if it is not provided by your manager. Here are some products that will protect your ears:
If you bring up the worries, it’s likely that your employer will be willing to listen.
Hearing damage is yet another good reason to stop smoking. Studies reveal 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
Some medications are ototoxic, meaning they damage your ears. Several typical offenders include:
- Narcotic analgesics
- Cardiac medication
- Certain antibiotics
- Mood stabilizers and antidepressants
This list is a combination of over-the-counter products and prescription medications and it’s not even all of them. If you use pain relievers, do so only when necessary and check the labels. If you are not sure about a drug, ask your doctor before taking it.
Treat Your Body Well
To prevent hearing loss it’s particularly important, as you get older, to do the normal things that keep you healthy, like eating well and exercising. Reduce the amount of salt you eat 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 have hearing loss or if you hear ringing in your ears, get a hearing test. The sooner you recognize you have a problem, the sooner you can do something about it, such as getting hearing aids. Schedule an appointment with a hearing expert to keep any problems from getting worse. It’s never too late.