Hearing Aids by Tricia Leagjeld - Redmond, OR

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

Loss of hearing is normal for the majority of people, but does it have to be that way? As they begin to grow older, most adults will begin to recognize a subtle change in their hearing. Even small differences in your ability to hear will be able to be noticed after years of hearing sound. As with most things in life, though, prevention is the answer to controlling the degree of that loss and how fast it advances. There are some things you can do now that will affect your hearing later in your life. It’s never too early to begin or too late to care when it comes to ear health. What can you do to prevent your hearing loss from becoming worse?

Comprehending Hearing Loss

It begins with knowing how hearing works and what causes most hearing loss. Age-associated hearing loss, medically known as presbycusis, affects one in every three people in the U.S. from 64 to 74. It is a cumulation of damage to the ears over the years. Presbycusis is slight at first and then gets worse over time.

Sound waves reach the inner ear only after being amplified several times by the ear canal. Chemicals are secreted after being bumped into by little hairs, which are in turn shaken by inbound sound waves. These chemicals are interpreted by the brain as electrical signals, which are then “heard” by the brain as sound.

Failing over time, due to the constant vibration, the tiny hairs finally quit working. When these hair cells are destroyed, they are gone for good. If there are no tiny hairs, there are no chemicals released to create the electrical impulse which the brain translates as sound.

What’s the story behind this hair cell destruction? It will happen, to varying degrees, with normal aging but there are other things which will also contribute. How powerful a sound wave is, is generally known as “volume”. The louder the volume, the more powerful the sound wave and the bigger the impact on the hair cells.

Direct exposure to loud sound isn’t the only factor. Also, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other chronic illnesses will take a toll.

Protecting Your Hearing

You need to depend on strong hearing hygiene to take care of your ears over time. Volume is at the root of the problem. Sound is a lot more dangerous when it’s at a higher volume or decibel level. It doesn’t take as much as you might think to cause damage. You shouldn’t have to raise your voice to talk over another sound. If you do that sound is too loud.

Everyone has to cope with the occasional loud noise but continuous exposure or even just a couple of loud minutes at a time is sufficient to affect your hearing later in life. Fortunately protecting your hearing from expected loud noises is fairly easy. Use hearing protection when you:

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

Avoid using accessories made to amplify and isolate sound, too, including headphones or earbuds. Listen to music the old-fashioned way and at a lesser volume.

Control The Noise Around You

Over time, even household sounds can become a hearing threat. The noise rating should be checked before you get a new appliance. 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 speak up. A restaurant manager may be willing to turn down the background music for you or possibly move you to another table away from loud speakers or clanging dishes.

Pay Attention to Noise Levels While at Work

If your job exposes you to loud noises like equipment, then do something about it. If your company doesn’t provide hearing protection, invest in your own. Here are several products that can protect your hearing:

  • Headphones
  • Earmuffs
  • Earplugs

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

Quit Smoking

Add hearing to the long list of reasons to quit smoking. Studies reveal that cigarette smokers are much more likely to get age-related hearing loss. If you are subjected to second-hand smoke this is also true.

Check And Double Check Your Medications

Ototoxic medications are known to cause damage to your ears. A few typical culprits include:

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

There are many other items that go on this list, including some over the counter and some prescription medications. If you take pain relievers, do so only when necessary and check the labels. If you are unsure about a drug, consult your doctor before taking it.

Be Good to Your Body

Regular exercise and a good diet are things you should do anyway but they are also essential to your hearing health as well. Do what is needed to deal with your high blood pressure like taking your medication and decreasing salt intake. 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 loss.

If you believe you hear ringing in your ears or if you have some hearing loss, get your hearing tested. You may need hearing aids and not even know it so pay attention to your hearing. Schedule an appointment with a hearing expert to keep any issues from getting worse. It’s never too late.

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