It’s typical to have hearing loss as you get older but does it need to happen? As they age, the majority of people will begin to recognize a change in their hearing. Even small differences in your hearing ability will be able to be noticed after years of hearing sound. The degree of the loss and how rapidly it progresses is best managed with prevention, as is true with most things in life. There are some things you can do now that will affect your hearing later on in life. It’s never too early to start or too late to care when it comes to ear health. You really want to keep your hearing from becoming worse, but what can be done?
Learn About Your Hearing Loss
Understanding how the ears work is the first step to understanding what causes most hearing loss. Age-associated hearing loss, known medically as presbycusis, is affecting one in every three people in America 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 sound waves several times before they make it to the inner ear. Sound waves move little hairs which bump into chemical releasing structures. These chemicals are transformed into electrical signals that the brain interprets as sound.
Failing over time, because of the constant vibration, the tiny hairs eventually quit working. Once these hair cells are gone they won’t grow back. The sound is not converted into a signal that the brain can understand without those little vibrating hairs.
What’s behind this hair cell damage? It will happen, to some extent, with normal aging but there are other factors which will also contribute. Sound waves come in a variety of strengths, though; that is what you know as volume. The higher the volume, the stronger the sound wave and the bigger the injury to the hair cells.
Loud noise is undoubtedly a factor but there are others too. Chronic diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes have an affect, as well.
How to Take Care Of Your Hearing
Taking care of your hearing over time depends on good hearing hygiene. At the root of the problem is volume. Sound is measured in decibels and the higher the decibel the more damaging the noise. You may believe that it takes a very loud decibel level to cause damage, but it actually doesn’t. A noise is too loud if you have to raise your voice to talk over it.
Everyone deals with the occasional loud noise but constant exposure or even just a couple of loud minutes at a time is enough to impact your hearing later in life. Taking precautions when you expect to be subjected to loud sound, fortunately, is pretty easy. Wear hearing protection when you:
- Ride a motorcycle
- Run power equipment
- Go to a performance
- Participate in loud activities.
Headphones, earbuds, and other accessories designed to isolate and amplify sound should be avoided. A reduced volume should be chosen and use conventional speakers.
Every-Day Noises That Can Become a Problem
Enough noise can be produced, even by every-day household sounds, to become a hearing threat over time. Nowadays, appliances and other home devices have noise ratings. The lower the noise rating the better.
If the noise is too loud when you are out at a party or restaurant, don’t be afraid to speak up. The host of the party, or maybe even the restaurant manager might be willing to help accommodate for your issue.
Be Noise Conscious When You Are at Work
Take steps to protect your hearing if your job subjects you to loud sounds. Purchase your own hearing protection if it is not provided by your boss. There are numerous products out there that are made to protect you such as:
Your employer will most likely be willing to 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. This is true if you are subjected to second-hand smoke, as well.
Make Sure to Look Closely at Medications That You Take
Ototoxic medications are known to cause damage to your ears. Some typical culprits include:
- Narcotic analgesics
- Mood stabilizers and antidepressants
- Certain antibiotics
- Cardiac medication
There are many others that go on this list, among them some over the counter and some prescription medications. Only use pain relievers when you really need them and be sure to check all of the labels. Ask your doctor first if you are not sure.
Be Good to Your Body
The little things you should do anyway like eating right and exercise are an important part of preventing hearing loss from getting worse, especially as you start to get older. Lower the amount of sodium you eat and take your medications to deal with your high blood pressure. The better you take care of your health, the lower your risk of chronic sicknesses that could cost you your hearing over time, like diabetes.
If you have hearing loss or if you have ringing in your ears, get a hearing test. You could need hearing aids and not even know it so pay attention to your hearing. It’s never too late to start taking care of your hearing, so if you notice any 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 even worse.