Audiology Specialty Clinic - Sioux Falls, SD

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

Loss of hearing is normal for most people, but is it inevitable? The truth is, the majority of adults will begin to recognize a change in their hearing as they age. That change is really the effect of a lot of years of listening to sound. The degree of the loss and how rapidly it advances is best controlled with prevention, as is true with most things in life. Later in life, how bad your hearing loss is will depend on the decisions you make now. You should carefully consider it sooner than later because you can still lessen further loss of hearing. You want to keep your hearing from becoming worse, but what can you do?

Learn About Your Hearing Loss

It starts with knowing how the ears work and what causes most loss of hearing. Age-related hearing loss, medically known as presbycusis, is affecting one in three people in the U.S. from 64 to 74. It is a cumulation of damage to the ears over the years. Presbycusis starts slowly and then gets progressively worse.

The ear canal amplifies sound waves several times before they reach the inner ear. Once there, the sound vibrates very small hairs cells, causing them to bump into structures that release chemicals to create an electrical message which the brain interprets as sound.

Failing over time, because of the constant vibration, the tiny hairs eventually quit. Once these hair cells are lost they won’t grow back. Without those cells to generate the electrical signals, the sound can’t be translated into a language the brain can understand.

What’s behind this hair cell damage? It can be greatly increased by several factors but it can be anticipated, to some degree, as a part of aging. The word “volume” refers to the strength of sound waves. More damage is done to the hair cells if they receive more powerful sound waves, and that means a higher volume of sound.

Exposure to loud noise isn’t the only factor. Chronic diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes have an affect, as well.

How to Protect Your Hearing

You need to depend on strong hearing hygiene to protect your ears over time. Volume is at the heart of the issue. When sound is at a higher volume or decibel level, it is significantly more harmful to the ears. It doesn’t take as much as you may think to lead to damage. A noise is too loud if you have to raise your voice to talk over it.

Your hearing will be impacted later on by even a couple of loud minutes and even more so by frequent exposure. Luckily, it’s fairly easy to take precautions to protect your hearing when you expect to be around loud sound. Wear hearing protection when you:

  • Run power tools
  • Do something where the noise is loud.
  • Go to a performance
  • Ride a motorcycle

Headphones, earbuds, and other accessories made to isolate and amplify sound should be avoided. Partake of music the old-fashioned way and at a lesser volume.

Day-to-Day Noises That Can Become an Issue

Over time, even everyday sounds can become a hearing threat. Today, appliances and other home devices have noise ratings. Try to use appliances that have a lower noise rating.

If the noise gets too loud when you are out at a party or restaurant, don’t be scared to let someone know. A restaurant manager may be willing to turn the background music down for you or perhaps even move you to another table away from noisy speakers or clanging dishes.

Be Conscious of Noise While at Work

If your job subjects you to loud noises like equipment, you should do something about it. If your employer doesn’t provide hearing protection, get your own. Here are some products that will protect your ears:

  • Earplugs
  • Earmuffs
  • Headphones

If you mention your situation, it’s likely that your boss will listen.

Give up Smoking

There are lots of good reasons to give up smoking and you can add hearing loss to the long list. Studies show that smokers are much more likely to experience age-related hearing loss. This is true if you are subjected to second-hand smoke, as well.

Check And Double Check Your Medications

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

  • Cardiac medication
  • NSAIDS
  • Antidepressants and mood stabilizers
  • Narcotic analgesics
  • Certain antibiotics
  • Diuretics
  • Aspirin

This list is a combination of over-the-counter products and prescription medications and it doesn’t cover all of them. Check the label of any pain relievers you buy and take them only when necessary. Ask your doctor first if you are uncertain.

Be Kind 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 well and exercising. Do what is required to manage your high blood pressure like taking your medication and decreasing salt consumption. You have a lower risk of chronic illness, such as diabetes, if you take good care of your body and this leads to lower chances of hearing problems.

If you believe that you hear ringing in your ears or if you have some hearing loss, have your hearing tested. Pay close attention to your hearing because you might not even recognize that you need hearing aids. If you notice any changes in your hearing, schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist. It’s not too late to take care of your hearing.

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