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

Hearing loss is common for the majority of people, but does it have to be that way? As they age, the majority of people will begin to take note of a change in their hearing. That change is just the effect of many years of listening to sound. The degree of the loss and how fast it progresses is best managed with prevention, as is true with most things in life. Later in life, how bad your hearing loss is will be determined by the decisions you make now. When it comes to your hearing health, it’s never too late to care or too soon to begin. You want to keep your hearing from becoming worse, but what can you do?

Learn About Your Hearing Loss

Recognizing what causes most hearing loss begins with learning how the ears work. Age-related hearing loss, medically known 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 starts slowly and then gets worse over time.

Sound comes into the ear as pressure waves that are amplified several times before they finally get to the inner ear. Once there, the sound jiggles tiny hairs cells, causing them to bump into structures which 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 ultimately break down and stop working. These hair cells don’t repair themselves, either, so once gone, they’re gone. Without those cells to generate the electrical signals, the sound is never translated into a language the brain can comprehend.

What’s the story behind this hair cell destruction? It can be considerably increased by several factors but it can be expected, to some degree, with aging. How strong a sound wave is, is generally known as “volume”. The louder the volume, the stronger the sound wave and the bigger the injury to the hair cells.

There are some other considerations besides exposure to loud sound. Chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure and diabetes take a toll, as well.

How to Protect Your Hearing

Good hearing hygiene is an important part of protecting your hearing over time. Sound volume presents the biggest problem. Sound is much more dangerous when it’s at a higher volume or decibel level. Damage is caused at a far lower decibel level then you would realize. 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 an adverse effect later on. Taking precautions when you expect to be subjected to loud sound, fortunately, is pretty easy. Wear hearing protection when you:

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

Headphones, earbuds, and other accessories made to isolate and amplify sound should be avoided. A lower volume should be chosen and use conventional speakers.

Day-to-Day Noises That Can be an Issue

Over time, even household sounds will become a hearing hazard. Presently, appliances and other home devices have noise ratings. The lower the rating the better.

If you are out at a crowded restaurant or party, don’t be afraid to speak up if the noise gets too loud. The host of the party, or maybe even the restaurant manager may be willing to help accommodate for your issue.

Be Aware of Noise Levels at Work

When you’re working, protect your ears if your work-place is loud. Purchase your own hearing protection if it’s not provided by your employer. Here are some products that can protect your ears:

  • Earplugs
  • Headphones
  • Earmuffs

Your employer will most likely listen if you bring up your worries.

Quit Smoking

There are lots of good reasons to give up 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. Second-hand smoke can also speed up hearing loss.

Double Check Medications

Ototoxic medications are known to cause damage to your ears. Some typical offenders include:

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

There are many other examples that go on this list, among them some over the counter and some prescription medications. Read the label of any pain relievers you buy and take them only when you really need them. Ask your doctor first if you are unsure.

Treat Your Body Well

Exercising and eating right are things you should do for your general health but they are also relevant to your hearing health. If you have high blood pressure, do what you must to manage it like lowering your sodium intake and taking the medication prescribed to you. You have a lower risk of chronic health problems, such as diabetes, if you take good care of your body and this leads to lower chances of hearing problems.

If you believe you hear ringing in your ears or if you have some hearing loss, get your hearing checked. The sooner you acknowledge there is a problem, the sooner you can do something about it, such as getting hearing aids. It’s never too late to take care of your hearing, so if you notice a change, even a small one, schedule an appointment with a hearing care professional to find out what you can do to stop it from getting worse.

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