Hearing loss is normal for most people, but does it have to be that way? As they get older, the vast majority of adults will start to detect a change in their ability to hear. Even small changes in your hearing ability will be able to be noticed after years of hearing sound. Prevention is the best method of controlling the extent of the loss and how fast it progresses, which is true of most things in life. There are things you can do now that will affect your hearing later on in your life. It’s never too early to start or too late to care with regards to your ear health. What steps can you take now to protect your hearing?
Understanding Hearing Loss
Knowing what causes the majority of hearing loss begins with finding out how the ears work. Age-related hearing loss, known medically 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 is slight at first and then gets progressively worse.
Sound waves reach the inner ear only after having been amplified several times by the ear canal. Sound waves oscillate little hairs which bump into chemical releasing structures. These chemicals are translated into electrical signals that the brain interprets as sound.
Malfunctioning over time, because of the constant vibration, the tiny hairs finally quit. When these hair cells are destroyed, they are gone forever. The sound is not converted into a language that the brain can understand without those little vibrating hairs.
So, what leads to this destruction of the hair cells? There are numerous contributing factors like normal aging. Sound waves come in various strengths, though; that is what’s 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.
There are some other factors besides exposure to loud sound. Additionally, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other chronic ailments will take a toll.
Safeguarding Your Hearing
You need to depend on good hearing hygiene to protect your ears over time. Volume is at the heart of the problem. Sound is much more unsafe when it’s at a higher volume or decibel level. It doesn’t take as much as you might think to lead to damage. A noise is too loud if you have to raise your voice to talk over it.
Even just a few loud minutes, not to mention continuous exposure, will be enough to cause an adverse effect later on. On the plus side, it’s pretty easy to take precautions to protect your hearing when you expect to be exposed to loud sound. Wear hearing protection when you:
- Participate in loud activities.
- Run power equipment
- Go to a performance
- Ride a motorcycle
Headphones, earbuds, and other accessories designed to isolate and amplify sound should be avoided. Listen to music the old-fashioned way and at a lower volume.
Every-Day Noises That Can Become an Issue
Enough noise can be produced, even by common household sounds, to become a hearing threat over time. The noise rating should be checked before you invest in a new appliance. It’s much better to use equipment with lower noise ratings.
Don’t be afraid to speak up if the noise gets too loud when you’re at a restaurant or party. A restaurant manager may be willing to turn down the background music for you or perhaps even move you to a different table away from loud speakers or clanging dishes.
Pay Attention to Noise Levels While at Work
At work, protect your ears if your work-place is loud. If your company doesn’t provide hearing protection, invest in your own. Here are a few products that will protect your ears:
Your employer will most likely listen if you bring up your worries.
Hearing damage is yet another good reason to stop smoking. Studies demonstrate that cigarette smokers are much more likely to get age-related hearing loss. This is true if you are subjected to second-hand smoke, as well.
Be Certain to Look Closely at Medications That You Take
Some medications are known to cause hearing damage. This is called ototoxicity. A few typical offenders include:
- Narcotic analgesics
- Mood stabilizers and antidepressants
- Certain antibiotics
- Cardiac medication
The true list is quite a bit longer than this one and contains prescription medication and over the counter medicines. Only use pain relievers when you really need them and be sure to read all of the labels. If you are not sure about a drug, consult your doctor before taking it.
Be Good to Your Body
To prevent hearing loss it’s particularly important, as you get older, to do the normal things that keep you healthy, like eating right and getting regular exercise. If you have high blood pressure, do what you must to manage it like decreasing your salt intake and taking the medication prescribed to you. The better you care for your body, the lower your risk of chronic health problems that might cost you your hearing over time, like diabetes.
If you believe that you hear ringing in your ears or if you have some hearing loss, have your hearing examined. Pay close attention to your hearing because you might not even recognize that you may need hearing aids. Schedule an appointment with a hearing expert to keep any issues from getting even worse. It’s not too late.