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

Hearing loss is not necessarily unavoidable, despite the fact that it is quite common. As they age, most adults will notice a change in their hearing ability. That change is simply the effect of a lot of years of listening to sound. The extent of the loss and how rapidly it advances is best managed with prevention, which is true with most things in life. There are a few things you can do now that will impact your hearing later on in your life. It’s never too soon to start or too late to care with regards to your hearing health. You really want to keep your hearing from getting worse, but what can you do?

Understanding Hearing Loss

It begins with learning about how the ears work and what causes most hearing loss. Age-related hearing loss, known medically as presbycusis, affects one in three people in America between the ages of 64 and 74. It is an accumulation of damage to the ears over the years. Presbycusis is slight at first and then gets worse over time.

Sound goes into the ear as pressure waves that are amplified several times before they finally reach the inner ear. Sound waves jiggle very little hairs that bump into chemical releasing structures. These chemicals are transformed into electrical signals which the brain interprets as sound.

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

So, what creates this destruction of the hair cells? There are several contributing factors such as normal aging. How powerful a sound wave is, is generally known as “volume”. If the sound is at a higher volume, then the strength of the sound wave is greater, and the hair cells take more damage.

Loud sound 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

You should rely on good hearing hygiene to protect your ears over time. Volume is at the root of the issue. When sound is at a higher volume or decibel level, it is significantly more damaging to the ears. You may think that it takes a very high volume to cause injury, but it actually doesn’t. You shouldn’t need to raise your voice to talk over another sound. If you do that sound is too loud.

Even just a few loud minutes, let alone constant exposure, will be enough to have an adverse effect later on. Fortunately protecting your hearing from expected loud noises is really easy. Use hearing protection when you:

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

Avoid using devices made to amplify and isolate sound, also, including headphones and earbuds. The old-fashioned way is a safer way to listen to music and that means at a reduced volume.

Every-Day Noises That Can be an Issue

Even the things around your house can produce enough noise to be an issue over time. The noise rating should be taken into consideration before you buy a new appliance. It’s much better to use equipment with lower noise ratings.

If the noise gets too loud while you are out at a party or restaurant, don’t be scared to speak up. A restaurant manager may be willing to turn down the background music for you or possibly move you to a different table away from loud speakers or clanging dishes.

Be Aware of Noise Levels at Work

If your job exposes you to loud noises like equipment, you need to do something about it. If your employer doesn’t provide hearing protection, buy your own. Here are some products that can protect your ears:

  • Earplugs
  • Headphones
  • Earmuffs

There’s a good chance that if you bring up the concern, your manager will listen.

Quit Smoking

There are lots of good reasons to stop smoking and you can add hearing loss to the list. Studies demonstrate that smokers are much more likely to experience age-related hearing loss. Second-hand smoke can also speed up hearing loss.

All The Medications That You Take Should be Closely Inspected

Certain medications are ototoxic, meaning they can cause damage to your hearing. A few common culprits include:

  • Certain antibiotics
  • Narcotic analgesics
  • NSAIDS
  • Mood stabilizers and antidepressants
  • Diuretics
  • Cardiac medication
  • Aspirin

The complete list is much longer than this and consists of prescription medication and over the counter products. Check the label of any pain relievers you purchase and take them only when you really need them. If you are uncertain about a drug, consult your doctor before taking it.

Take Good Care of Your Body

To slow down hearing loss it’s particularly important, as you get older, to do the normal things that keep you healthy, like eating well and getting regular exercise. If you have high blood pressure, do what you must to manage it like decreasing your sodium consumption and taking the medication prescribed to you. The better you take care of your health, the lower your risk of chronic sicknesses that might cost you your hearing over time, like diabetes.

Last but not least, get your hearing tested if you think you could have hearing loss or if you hear ringing in your ears. Pay close attention to your hearing because you might not even recognize that you may need 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 you can do to keep it from getting more serious.

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