The ironic part of hearing loss is that we don’t tend to begin appreciating our favorite sounds until after we’ve lost the capability to clearly hear them. We don’t pause to think about, for example, how much we appreciate a good conversation with a close friend until we have to incessantly ask them to repeat themselves.
Whether it’s your favorite Mozart record or the songs of a Bluejay first thing in the morning, your quality of life is directly connected to your ability to hear—whether you recognize it or not. And if you wait until after you’ve lost your hearing to come to this realization, you’re going to dedicate a tremendous amount of time and effort trying to get it back.
So how can you preserve your ability to hear?
Here are 6 ways you could lose your hearing and what you can do about it.
1. Genetics and aging
Age-related hearing loss, also called presbycusis, is the loss of hearing that progressively occurs as we get older. Along with presbycusis, there is also some evidence suggesting that genetics plays a role, and that some of us are more vulnerable to hearing loss than others.
While there’s not much you can do to prevent the process of getting older or tweak your genes, you can avoid noise-induced hearing loss from the other sources outlined below. And keep in mind that age-related hearing loss is significantly more difficult to treat if made worse by preventable damage.
Constant exposure to sound volumes above 85 decibels can cause permanent hearing loss, which is not-so-good news if you happen to own a convertible. New research shows that driving a convertible with the top down at high speeds yields an average sound volume of 90 decibels. Motorcyclists encounter even louder sounds and those who travel on the subway are at risk as well.
So does everyone either have to give up travel or live with permanent earplugs? Not quite, but you should find ways to reduce your cumulative noise exposure during travel. If you own a convertible, roll up your windows and drive a little slower; if you ride a motorcycle, put on a helmet and think about earplugs; and if you take the subway, consider buying noise-canceling headsets.
3. Going to work
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), 22 million people in the US are subjected to potentially hazardous noise levels at work. The highest risk occupations are in manufacturing, farming, construction, the military, and the music industry.
The last thing you want is to spend your total working life amassing hearing loss that will keep you from taking pleasure in your retirement. Get in touch with your supervisor about its hearing protection plan, and if they don’t have one, contact your local hearing specialist for custom solutions.
4. Taking drugs and smoking
Smoking interferes with blood flow, among other things, which could enhance your risk of developing hearing loss—if you really required another reason to stop smoking. Antibiotics, strong pain medications, and a significant number of other drugs are “ototoxic,” or damaging to the cells of hearing. In fact, there are more than 200 known ototoxic medications.
The bottom line: avoid using ototoxic drugs or medications unless completely necessary. Speak to your doctor if you have any questions.
5. Listening to music
85 is turning out to be quite an inconvenient number. Many of our favorite activities produce decibel levels just above this limit, and any sound over 85 decibels can result in hearing loss. If the limit were just a little higher, say 100 decibels, we wouldn’t have to worry about it so much.
But 85 it is. And portable music players at maximum volume get to more than 100 decibels while rock shows reach more than 110. The solution is straight forward: turn down your iPod, wear earplugs at concerts, and limit your length of exposure to the music.
6. Getting sick or injured
Some conditions, such as diabetes, along with any traumatic head injuries, places you at greater risk of developing hearing loss. If you have diabetes, frequent exercise, a healthy diet, and regular tracking of blood sugar levels is crucial. And if you drive a motorcycle, using a helmet will help protect against traumatic head injuries.
Talk to Your Hearing Specialist
Although there are many ways to lose your hearing, a few easy lifestyle alterations can help you save your hearing for life. Keep in mind: the minor hassle of wearing custom earplugs, driving with the windows up, or turning down your iPod are insignificant compared to the major inconvenience of hearing loss later in life.
Ready to take your hearing health seriously? Give us a call today.