It’s normal to have hearing loss as you get older but is it necessary? The reality is, the majority of people will start to recognize a change in their hearing as they get older. That change is really the effect of many years of listening to sound. Just like most things in life, though, prevention is the key to managing the degree of that loss and how quickly it advances. Your hearing can be affected later in life by the choices you make now. You should consider it sooner than later because you can still lessen further loss of hearing. You want to keep your hearing from getting worse, but what can you do?
Learn About Your Hearing Loss
It starts with knowing how the ears work and what causes most loss of hearing. Age-related hearing loss, known medically as presbycusis, affects one in every three people in the U.S. between the ages of 64 and 74. It is a cumulation of damage to the ears over the years. Presbycusis is slight at first and then gets progressively worse.
Sound enters the ear in waves that are amplified several times before they finally get to the inner ear. Once there, the sound shakes tiny hairs cells, causing them to bump structures that release chemicals to create an electrical message which the brain translates into sound.
The negative aspect to all this shaking and vibrating is that the hair cells eventually break down and stop 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.
How exactly do these hair cells become damaged? It can be greatly increased by several factors but it can be anticipated, to some degree, with aging. The term “volume” makes reference to the power of sound waves. More damage is done to the hair cells if they receive more powerful sound waves, and that means a higher volume of sound.
There are some other considerations aside from exposure to loud noise. Also, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other chronic illnesses will take a toll.
Protecting Your Hearing
Protecting your hearing over time is dependent on consistent hearing hygiene. Sound volume presents the biggest problem. Sound is a lot more unsafe when it’s at a higher volume or decibel level. It doesn’t have to be as loud as you might think to cause hearing damage. If you find that you have to raise your voice to talk over a noise, it’s too loud.
Even just a few loud minutes, not to mention frequent exposure, will be enough to have a detrimental effect later on. Taking precautions when you expect to be exposed to loud sound, fortunately, is pretty easy. Use hearing protection when you:
- Go to a concert
- Run power tools
- Do something where the noise is loud.
- Ride a motorcycle
Headphones, earbuds, and other accessories designed to isolate and amplify sound should be avoided. The old-fashioned way is a safer way to partake of music and that means at a reduced volume.
Every-Day Noises That Can be a Problem
Over time, even household sounds can become a hearing hazard. When you get an appliance for your home, check the noise rating of the product. It’s much better to use appliances with lower noise ratings.
When you are out at a restaurant or party, don’t be scared to speak up if the noise gets too loud. The party’s host, or perhaps even the restaurant manager might be willing to help accommodate for your issue.
Be Aware of Noise Levels at Work
If your job subjects you to loud sounds like equipment, then do something about it. If your employer doesn’t provide hearing protection, get your own. Here are several products that will protect your hearing:
Your employer will probably be willing to listen if you bring up your worries.
Give up Smoking
There are lots of good reasons to stop smoking and you can add hearing loss to the long list. Studies reveal that cigarette smokers are much more likely to experience age-related hearing loss. If you are subjected to second-hand smoke this is also true.
Check And Double Check Your Medications
Some medications are ototoxic, meaning they can cause damage to your hearing. A few common culprits include:
- Certain antibiotics
- Narcotic analgesics
- Cardiac medication
- Mood stabilizers and antidepressants
This list is a mix of over-the-counter products and prescription medications and it doesn’t cover all of them. If you use pain relievers, do so only when necessary and read the labels. Consult your doctor first if you are unsure.
Take Good Care of Your Body
The little things you should do anyway like eating a healthy diet and exercise are an essential part of preventing hearing loss from getting worse, especially as you get older. Do what is necessary to deal with your high blood pressure like taking your medication and decreasing sodium consumption. 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 suspect you hear ringing in your ears or if you have some hearing loss, have your hearing examined. 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 more serious.