When you were younger, you most likely considered hearing loss a consequence of getting old. You probably had older adults around you struggling to comprehend words or wearing hearing aids.
But in the same way as 30 or 60 only seemed old to you until it fast approached, as you learn more about hearing loss, you find it has less to do with the aging process and much more to do with something else.
Here is the one thing you should understand: It doesn’t mean that you’re old just because you admit you have hearing loss.
Hearing Loss is an “Any Age Problem”
In 13% of cases, audiologists can already detect hearing loss by age 12. You’ll agree, this isn’t because 12-year-olds are “old”. Teenage hearing loss has risen 33% in the last 30 years.
What’s the cause of this?
2% of 45 – 55-year-olds and 8% of 55 – 64 year-olds already suffer from disabling hearing loss.
It isn’t an aging problem. What you may consider an age-related hearing loss is 100% preventable. And you have the ability to dramatically reduce its development.
Age-associated hearing loss, clinically known as sensorineural hearing loss, is typically a result of noise.
For generations hearing loss was believed to be inescapable as you get older. But today, science understands more about how to protect your hearing and even restore it.
How Noise Leads to Hearing Loss
Step one to safeguarding your hearing is recognizing how something as “innocuous” as noise causes hearing loss.
Waves are what sound is composed of. The canal of your ear receives these waves. They arrive at your inner ear after passing your eardrum.
Here, small hair cells in your inner ear oscillate. The intensity and speed of these vibrations then encode a neurological signal. Your brain can convert this code into words, running water, a car horn, a cry or whatever else you might hear.
But these hairs can vibrate with too much force when the inner ear gets sound that is too intense. The sound vibrates them to death.
When these hairs are gone you won’t be able to hear.
Noise-Activated Hearing Loss is Irreversible, Here’s Why
If you cut yourself, the wound heals. But these little hair cells don’t grow back or heal. Over time, as you subject your ears to loud sounds, more and more of these hairs fail.
As they do, hearing loss worsens.
Common Noises That Damage Hearing
Many people are surprised to discover that every day activities can cause hearing loss. These things probably seem perfectly harmless:
- Going to a concert/play/movies
- Turning the car stereo way up
- Wearing head phones/earbuds
- Lawn mowing
- Putting the windows or top down on a busy highway
- Being a musician
- Working in a factory or other loud profession
- Using farm equipment
- Riding a snowmobile/motorcycle
You don’t need to quit these activities. Luckily, you can minimize noise induced hearing loss by taking some preventative measures.
How to Keep Hearing Loss From Making You “Feel” Old
If you’re already suffering from loss of hearing, admitting it doesn’t have to make you feel old. The truth is, failing to accept it can doom you to faster progression and complications that “will” make you feel a lot older in only a few years like:
- More frequent trips to the ER
- Increased Fall Risk
- Social Isolation
- Strained relationships
These are all considerably more common in individuals with untreated hearing loss.
Reduce Further Hearing Damage
Begin by understanding how to avoid hearing loss.
- So that you can find out how loud things actually are, download a sound meter app.
- Determine when volumes get harmful. Above 85 dB (decibels) can lead to irreversible hearing loss in 8 hours. 110 dB takes about 15 minutes to trigger lasting hearing loss. Instant hearing loss occurs at 120dB or higher. A gunshot is 140 to 170 dB.
- Realize that you’ve already triggered permanent hearing damage every time you’ve had a difficult time hearing right after a concert. It will become more pronounced with time.
- Use earplugs and/or sound-canceling earmuffs when appropriate.
- When dealing with hearing protection, follow any rules that pertain to your circumstance.
- Reduce your exposure time to loud noises.
- Standing too close to loudspeakers is a bad idea in any situation.
- Some headphones and earbuds have on-board volume control for a less dangerous listening experience. They have a 90 dB upper limit. Most people would have to listen almost continuously all day to trigger irreversible damage.
- Even at lower volumes, if you have low blood oxygen, high blood pressure, or are taking some common medication, you’re hearing could still be in peril. To be safe, you should never listen on headphones at over 50%. Car speakers vary.
- Wear your hearing aid. Not wearing hearing aids when you require them causes the brain to atrophy. It’s a lot like your leg muscles. If you stop using them, it will be difficult to start again.
Get a Hearing Test
Are you procrastinating or in denial? Don’t do it. You need to acknowledge your hearing loss so that you can take measures to decrease further damage.
Consult Your Hearing Professional About Solutions For Your Hearing.
There aren’t any “natural cures” for hearing loss. It could be time to invest in a hearing aid if your hearing loss is severe.
Do a Cost to Benefit Analysis of Investing in Hearing Aids
Lots of people are either in denial about hearing loss, or they decide to “just deal with”. They think hearing aids make them look old. Or they are concerned that they won’t be able to afford them.
It’s easy to see, however, that when the negative effect on health and relationships will cost more in the long run.
Talk to a hearing care professional right away about getting a hearing test. And if hearing aids are suggested, don’t worry about “feeling old”. Todays hearing aids are stylish and advanced pieces of modern technology.