Hearing loss is normal for the majority of people, but does it have to be that way? As they grow older, the vast majority of people will begin to recognize a change in their hearing. Even small changes in your hearing will be able to be noticed after years of hearing sound. Prevention is the best way of controlling the extent of the loss and how quickly it advances, which is the case with most things in life. There are some things you can do now that will impact your hearing later in your life. As for your hearing health, it’s never too late to care or too early to begin. What can you do to keep your hearing loss from getting worse?
Get The Facts About Hearing Loss
Recognizing what causes most hearing loss begins with finding out how the ears actually work. Age-associated hearing loss, known medically as presbycusis, is affecting one in every three people in this country from 64 to 74. It is an accumulation of damage to the ears over time. Presbycusis starts slowly and then gets progressively worse.
Sound waves get to the inner ear only after being amplified a few times by the ear canal. Once there, the sound vibrates little hairs cells, causing them to bump into structures which release chemicals to create an electrical message which the brain interprets as sound.
Malfunctioning over time, due to the constant vibration, the tiny hairs eventually quit working. These hair cells don’t repair themselves, either, so once gone, they’re gone. The sound is not translated into a language that the brain can understand without those little vibrating hairs.
What’s the story behind this hair cell damage? It will happen, to some degree, with aging but there are other things which will also contribute. How strong a sound wave is, is generally known as “volume”. The higher the volume, the stronger the sound wave and the bigger the impact on the hair cells.
There are some other considerations besides exposure to loud noise. Also, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other chronic diseases will take a toll.
Protecting Your Hearing
You should depend on good hearing hygiene to take care of your ears over time. At the center of the problem is volume. When sound is at a higher volume or decibel level, it is significantly more harmful to the ears. Damage is caused at a far lower decibel level then you might think. If you find that you have to raise your voice to talk over a noise, it’s too loud.
Even a few loud minutes, let alone frequent exposure, will be enough to have a detrimental effect later on. Luckily, it’s quite easy to take safety measures to protect your hearing when you expect to be around loud sound. Use hearing protection when you:
- Go to a performance
- Run power tools
- Ride a motorcycle
- Do something where the noise is loud.
Avoid using devices made to amplify and isolate sound, too, like headphones or earbuds. Partake of music the old-fashioned way and at a lesser volume.
Control The Noise Around You
Enough noise can be produced, even by common household sounds, to become a hearing hazard over time. When you purchase an appliance for your house, consider the noise rating of the product. It’s far better to use devices with lower noise ratings.
When you are out at a restaurant or party, don’t be scared to tell someone if the noise is too loud. The party’s host, or maybe even the restaurant manager may be willing to help accommodate for your issue.
Pay Attention to Noise Levels While at Work
Take the proper steps to safeguard your hearing if your job exposes you to loud noises. If your employer doesn’t provide hearing protection, buy your own. Here are a few products that can protect your hearing:
If you bring up the concern, chances are your boss will listen.
Hearing impairment is yet another good reason to give up smoking. Studies show that smokers are much more likely to get age-related hearing loss. Second-hand smoke can also speed up hearing loss.
Check And Double Check Your Medications
Many medications are ototoxic, meaning they can cause damage to your ears. Some typical offenders include:
- Certain antibiotics
- Mood stabilizers and antidepressants
- Cardiac medication
- Narcotic analgesics
There are many other examples that go on this list, including some over the counter and some prescription medications. Only take pain relievers when you really need them and make sure you read all of the labels. If you are unsure about a drug, ask your doctor before taking it.
Treat Your Body Well
The common things you should do anyway like eating a healthy diet and exercise are a major part of preventing hearing loss from getting worse, particularly as you get older. Do what is needed to deal with your high blood pressure like taking your medication and decreasing sodium consumption. The better you take care of your health, the lower your chances of chronic health problems that might cost you your hearing over time, like diabetes.
Lastly, have your hearing tested if you believe you have hearing loss or if you hear ringing in your ears. The sooner you recognize there is a problem, the sooner you can do something about it, like getting hearing aids. 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 to do to keep it from getting worse.