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

Loss of hearing is common for the majority of people, but does it have to be that way? As they get older, the vast majority of adults will start to detect a change in their ability to hear. After listening to sound for years, you will begin to recognize even slight changes in your ability to hear. The degree of the loss and how rapidly it progresses is best controlled with prevention, as is true with most things in life. Your hearing will be affected later in your life by the choices you make now. It’s never too soon to start or too late to care when it comes to hearing health. What are the steps you can take right now to safeguard your hearing?

Learn About Your Hearing Loss

Learning how the ears actually work is step one to understanding what causes most hearing loss. Age-associated hearing loss, medically known as presbycusis, affects one in three people in America from 64 to 74. It is a cumulation of damage to the ears over the years. Presbycusis starts slowly and then gets progressively worse.

Sound enters the ear as pressure waves that are amplified several times before they finally reach the inner ear. Once there, the sound vibrates little hairs cells, causing them to bump into structures that release chemicals to create an electrical message which the brain interprets as sound.

All of this rumbling eventually causes the hairs to begin to break down and misfunction. When these hair cells are destroyed, they are gone forever. If you lose those tiny hairs, there are no chemicals released to produce the electrical signal which the brain translates as sound.

So, what causes this damage to the hair cells? There are several contributing variables such as normal aging. How strong a sound wave is, is generally known as “volume”. More damage is done to the hair cells if they receive stronger sound waves, and that means a higher volume of sound.

Exposure to loud sound isn’t the only factor to consider. Chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure and diabetes take a toll, as well.

Protecting Your Hearing

You need to rely on strong hearing hygiene to protect your ears over time. At the center of the issue is volume. Sound is measured in decibels and the higher the decibel level the more damaging the noise. You might think that it takes a very loud decibel level to cause damage, but it actually doesn’t. If you find that you have to raise your voice to talk over a noise, it’s too loud.

Even a few loud minutes, let alone constant exposure, will be enough to cause an adverse effect later on. Fortunately protecting your ears from expected loud noises is fairly easy. Wear hearing protection when you:

  • Run power tools
  • Ride a motorcycle
  • Participate in loud activities.
  • Go to a performance

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

Manage The Noise Around You

Enough noise can be produced, even by common household sounds, to become a hearing threat over time. When you purchase an appliance for your house, consider the noise rating of the product. Try to use appliances that have a lower noise rating.

Don’t be afraid to speak up if the noise gets too loud when you’re at a restaurant or party. A restaurant manager may be willing to turn down the background music for you or even move you to another table away from noisy speakers or clanging dishes.

Pay Attention to Noise Levels at Work

Take steps to protect your hearing if your job exposes you to loud noises. Invest in your own ear protection if it’s not provided by your manager. There are lots of products out there that are made to protect you such as:

  • Earplugs
  • Headphones
  • Earmuffs

The chances are good that if you mention your concern, your employer will listen.

Quit Smoking

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

Make Sure to Look Closely at Medications That You Take

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

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

There are many other items that go on this list, including some over the counter and some prescription medications. Only take pain relievers when you really need them and make sure you read all of the labels. Consult your doctor first if you are uncertain.

Take Good Care of Your Health

To slow down hearing loss it’s particularly important, as you get older, to do the normal things that keep you healthy, like eating right and exercising. Do what is necessary to deal with your high blood pressure like taking your medication and lowering salt consumption. You have a lower risk of chronic health problems, such as diabetes, if you take good care of your body and this leads to lower chances of hearing loss.

Lastly, get your hearing tested if you believe you have hearing loss or if you hear ringing in your ears. Pay close attention to your hearing because you may not even recognize that you may need hearing aids. It’s never too late to take care of your hearing, so if you notice a change, even a small one, schedule an appointment with a hearing care professional to find out what you can do to keep it from getting more serious.