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

Hearing loss is not actually unavoidable, despite the fact that it is common. As they get older, the vast majority of people will start to recognize a change in their hearing. Even slight changes in your ability to hear will be able to be noticed after years of hearing sound. Prevention is the best means of controlling the extent of the loss and how fast it advances, which is true of most things in life. There are things you can do now that will affect your hearing later in life. When it comes to your hearing health, it’s never too late to care or too soon to start. You really want to keep your hearing from getting worse, but what can you do?

Understanding Hearing Loss

Understanding how the ears work is step one to knowing what causes most hearing loss. Age-associated hearing loss, medically known as presbycusis, is affecting one in three people in this country from 64 to 74. It is an accumulation of damage to the ears over time. Presbycusis is slight at first and then gets worse over time.

Sound waves reach the inner ear only after having been amplified a few times by the ear canal. Sound waves jiggle tiny hairs that bump into chemical releasing structures. These chemicals are translated into electrical signals which the brain interprets as sound.

Breaking down over time, due to the constant vibration, the tiny hairs eventually quit. These hair cells won’t fix themselves, either, so once gone, they’re gone. The sound is not converted into a language that the brain can understand without those little vibrating hairs.

So, what leads to this damage to the hair cells? It will happen, to varying degrees, with normal aging but there are other factors which will also contribute. How powerful a sound wave is, is generally known as “volume”. If the sound is at a higher volume, then the power of the sound wave is greater, and the hair cells take more damage.

Loud noise is certainly a consideration but there are others too. Chronic illnesses like high blood pressure and diabetes take a toll, as well.

Protecting Your Hearing

Consistent hearing hygiene is a big part of protecting your hearing over time. Volume is at the heart of the issue. When sound is at a higher volume or decibel level, it is exponentially more detrimental to the ears. You may believe that it takes a very loud volume to cause injury, but it doesn’t. If you notice that you have to raise your voice to talk over a noise, it’s too loud.

Everyone has to cope with the occasional loud noise but frequent exposure or even just a couple of loud minutes at a time is sufficient to impact your hearing later in life. Taking precautions when you expect to be subjected to loud sound, fortunately, is pretty simple. Use hearing protection when you:

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

Avoid using devices designed to amplify and isolate sound, also, including headphones and earbuds. The old-fashioned way is a less dangerous way to listen to music and that means at a reduced volume.

Control The Noise Around You

Over time, even household sounds can become a hearing hazard. Nowadays, appliances and other home devices come with noise ratings. The lower the rating the better.

If the noise is too loud when you are out at a party or restaurant, don’t be afraid to speak up. The party’s host, or possibly even the restaurant manager will probably be willing to help accommodate for your issue.

Be Noise Conscious When You Are at Work

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

  • Earplugs
  • Earmuffs
  • Headphones

If you mention your concern, chances are your boss will listen.

Give up Smoking

Put hearing health on the long list of reasons you shouldn’t smoke. Studies show that cigarette smokers are much more likely to experience age-related hearing loss. If you are exposed to second-hand smoke this is also true.

All The Medications That You Take Should be Closely Inspected

Some medications are known to cause hearing damage. This is called ototoxicity. Several common culprits include:

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

There are many other examples that go on this list, including some over the counter and some prescription medications. Only take pain relievers when you really need them and be sure to check all of the labels. If you are uncertain about a drug, consult your doctor before taking it.

Take Good Care of 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 right and exercising. If you have high blood pressure, do what you must to manage it like decreasing your salt consumption and taking the medication prescribed to you. The better you care for your body, the lower your risk of chronic sicknesses that might cost you your hearing over time, like diabetes.

If you suspect you hear ringing in your ears or if you have some hearing loss, get your hearing examined. The sooner you recognize there is a problem, the sooner you can do something about it, such as getting hearing aids. If you observe 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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