Worsening Hearing Loss is Preventable

Couple enjoying their motorcycle while protecting their ears from further hearing loss.

Hearing loss is common for most people, but is it inevitable? As they grow older, the majority of people will start to experience a change in their ability to hear. That change is simply the effect of years and years of listening to sound. The degree of the loss and how quickly it progresses is best controlled with prevention, which is true with most things in life. Your hearing will be impacted later in life by the choices you make now. In terms of the health of your ears, it’s never too late to care or too soon to begin. What steps can you take now to protect your hearing?

Understanding Hearing Loss

Understanding how the ears work is the first step to understanding what causes most hearing loss. Age-related hearing loss, medically known as presbycusis, impacts one in every three people in the U.S. between the ages of 64 and 74. It is an accumulation of damage to the ears over time. Presbycusis starts slowly and then gets worse over time.

The ear canal amplifies sound waves several times before they get to the inner ear. Sound waves move very little hairs that bump into chemical releasing structures. These chemicals are transformed into electrical signals that the brain interprets as sound.

The drawback to all this movement and vibrating is that the hair cells eventually break down and stop working. Once these hair cells are gone they won’t come back. The sound is not converted into a language that the brain can comprehend without those little vibrating hairs.

How exactly do these hair cells get damaged? It will happen, to varying degrees, with aging but there are other things which will also contribute. The word “volume” makes reference to the strength of sound waves. More damage is done to the hair cells if they receive stronger sound waves, and that means a higher volume of sound.

Loud noise is certainly a factor but there are others too. Chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure and diabetes have an affect, as well.

Safeguarding Your Hearing

Good hearing hygiene is a big part of taking care of your hearing over time. Volume is at the root of the problem. Sound is much more unsafe when it’s at a louder volume or decibel level. Damage is caused at a much lower decibel level then you would think. A noise is too loud if you have to raise your voice to talk over it.

Even just a few loud minutes, never mind constant exposure, will be enough to have a detrimental effect later on. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to take safety measures to protect your ears when you expect to be exposed to loud sound. Use hearing protection when you:

  • Go to a concert
  • Ride a motorcycle
  • Run power equipment
  • Participate in loud activities.

Avoid using devices designed to amplify and isolate sound, also, including 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 a Problem

Enough noise can be produced, even by common household sounds, to become a hearing hazard over time. When you get an appliance for your home, check the noise rating of the product. The lower the rating the better.

If the noise is too loud while you are out at a party or restaurant, don’t be afraid to speak up. The party’s host, or maybe even the restaurant manager will probably be willing to help accommodate for your issue.

Be Conscious of Noise While at Work

If your job exposes you to loud sounds like equipment, you need to do something about it. If your company doesn’t provide hearing protection, invest in your own. Here are several products that can protect your ears:

  • Earplugs
  • Earmuffs
  • Headphones

If you bring up the concern, it’s likely that your boss will be willing to listen.

Stop Smoking

There are lots of good reasons to stop smoking and you can add hearing loss to the list. Studies show that cigarette smokers are much more likely to get age-related hearing loss. This is true if you are subjected to second-hand smoke, too.

All The Medications That You Take Should be Closely Examined

Many medications are ototoxic, meaning they can cause damage to your hearing. Some typical offenders include:

  • Cardiac medication
  • Diuretics
  • Narcotic analgesics
  • Antidepressants and mood stabilizers
  • Certain antibiotics
  • Aspirin

This list is a combination of over-the-counter products and prescription medications and it’s not even all of them. If you take pain relievers, do so only when necessary and read the labels. Consult your doctor first if you are not sure.

Take Good Care of Your Health

Exercising and eating right are things you should do for your general health but they are also essential to your hearing health. Do what is required to manage your high blood pressure like taking your medication and reducing salt intake. The better you take care of your health, the lower your chances of chronic illnesses that could cost you your hearing over time, like diabetes.

If you believe you hear ringing in your ears or if you have some hearing loss, get your hearing examined. You may need hearing aids and not even know it so pay close attention to your hearing. Schedule an appointment with a hearing expert to keep any issues from getting even worse. It’s not too late.

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