As you got older, you likely started to connect hearing loss with aging. You probably had older adults in your life 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 realize that it has less to do with getting old and much more to do with something else.
This is the one thing you should understand: It doesn’t make you old just because you admit you have hearing loss.
Hearing Loss is a Condition That Can Happen at Any Age
By 12 years old, audiologists can already see some hearing loss in 13% of cases. You’ll agree, this isn’t because 12-year-olds are “old”. Teen hearing loss has increased 33% in the last 30 years.
What’s the cause of this?
Debilitating hearing loss has already developed for 2% of people between 45 and 55 and 8% of people between 55 and 64.
It isn’t an aging issue. You can 100% avoid what is generally thought of as “age related hearing loss”. And you have the ability to significantly decrease its progression.
Noise exposure is the most prevalent cause of age related or “sensorineural” hearing loss.
For generations hearing loss was assumed to be unavoidable as you age. But today, science knows more about how to protect your hearing and even repair it.
How Noise Leads to Hearing Loss
Step one to protecting your hearing is understanding how something as “harmless” as noise results in hearing loss.
Sound is made up of waves. These waves go into your ear canal. They arrive at your inner ear after passing your eardrum.
Here, small hair cells in your inner ear vibrate. What hair cells vibrate, and how rapidly or frequently they vibrate, becomes a neurological code. Your brain then translates this code into sound.
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 they’re gone, you can’t hear.
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss is Permanent, Here’s Why
If you cut yourself, the wound heals. But when you damage these tiny hair cells, they cannot heal, and they cannot regenerate. The more often you’re exposed to loud noise, the more tiny hair cells fail.
As they do, hearing loss worsens.
Common Noises That Damage Hearing
Many people are surprised to learn that daily activities can cause hearing loss. You might not think twice about:
- Using farm equipment
- Going to a concert/play/movies
- Mowing the lawn
- Going to a noisy workplace
- Being a musician
- Wearing head phones/earbuds
- Turning the car stereo way up
- Riding a motorcycle/snowmobile
- Putting the windows or top down on a busy highway
You can keep doing these things. Luckily, you can decrease noise induced hearing loss by taking some preventative measures.
How to Keep Hearing Loss From Making You “Feel” Older
Acknowledging that you have hearing loss, if you already suffer from it, doesn’t have to make you feel old. As a matter of fact, failing to accept it can doom you to faster development and complications that “will” make you feel a lot older in only a few years like:
- Increased Fall Risk
- Social Isolation
- Strained relationships
- More frequent trips to the ER
These are all significantly more common in individuals with neglected hearing loss.
Ways You Can Avoid Further Hearing Problems
Learning how to stop hearing loss is the initial step.
- So that you can find out how loud things actually are, get a sound meter app.
- Be familiar with harmful levels. In under 8 hours, permanent hearing loss can be caused by volumes above 85dB. Irreversible hearing loss, at 110 dB, occurs in over 15 minutes. 120 dB and above brings about instantaneous hearing loss. A gunshot is 140 to 170 dB.
- Know that If you’ve ever had difficulty hearing for a while after going to a concert, you’ve already induced permanent damage to your hearing. It will become more obvious with time.
- Use earplugs and/or sound-canceling earmuffs when appropriate.
- When dealing with hearing protection, implement any guidelines that apply to your situation.
- Limit your exposure time to loud noises.
- Avoid standing near loudspeakers or turning speakers up at home.
- Some headphones and earbuds have built in volume control for a safer listening experience. They never go above 90 decibels. At that level, even nonstop, all day listening wouldn’t cause hearing damage for the majority of people.
- Even at lower volumes, if you are taking some common medications, have high blood pressure, or have low blood oxygen, you’re hearing may still be in danger. To be safe, you should never listen on headphones at above 50%. Car speakers will vary and a volume meter app can help but regarding headphones, 50% or less is best policy.
- Use your hearing aid. The brain will begin to atrophy if you don’t wear your hearing aid when you need it. It’s a lot like your leg muscles. If you let them go, it will be hard to get them back.
Get a Hearing Examination
Are you in denial or simply procrastinating? Don’t do it. Be proactive about reducing further harm by acknowledging your circumstance.
Consult Your Hearing Specialist About Solutions For Your Hearing.
Hearing loss has no “natural cure”. If hearing loss is extreme, it might be time to get a hearing aid.
Do a Cost to Benefit Analysis of Investing in Hearing Aids
Many individuals are either in denial concerning hearing loss, or they decide to “tough it out”. They don’t want people to think they are old because they have hearing aids. Or they are concerned that they won’t be able to afford them.
It’s easy to see, however, that when the harmful effect on health and relationships will cost more in the long run.
Consult a hearing care professional right away about having a hearing exam. And if hearing aids are suggested, don’t be concerned about “feeling old”. Hearing aids today are significantly sleeker and more advanced than you may think!