The ironic part of hearing loss is that we don’t have a tendency to start appreciating our favorite sounds until after we’ve lost the capability to clearly hear them. We don’t stop to think about, for instance, how much we value a good conversation with a close friend until we have to habitually ask them to repeat themselves.
Whether it’s your favorite Mozart album or the songs of a Bluejay first thing in the morning, your quality of life is closely linked to your ability to hear—whether you recognize it or not. And if you wait until after you’ve lost your hearing to come to this understanding, you’re going to invest a whole lot of time and effort working to get it back.
So how can you conserve your ability to hear?
Here are 6 ways you could lose your hearing and what you can do about it.
1. Genetics and aging
Age-related hearing loss, also called presbycusis, is the loss of hearing that steadily takes place as we grow older. Together with presbycusis, there is also some evidence indicating that genetics plays a role, and that some of us are more prone to hearing loss than others.
While there’s not much you can do to prevent the process of getting older or alter your genetics, you can protect against noise-induced hearing loss from the other sources described below. And keep in mind that age-related hearing loss is much more difficult to treat if worsened by preventable damage.
Consistent direct exposure to sound volumes above 85 decibels can lead to permanent hearing loss, which is not-so-good news if you happen to drive a convertible. New research shows that driving a convertible with the top down at excessive speeds yields an average sound volume of 90 decibels. Motorcyclists face even higher sounds and those who use the subway are at risk as well.
So does everyone either have to abandon travel or live with permanent earplugs? Not quite, but you should certainly find ways to reduce your cumulative noise exposure during travel. If you drive a convertible, roll up your windows and drive a little slower; if you ride a motorcycle, wear a helmet and consider earplugs; and if you ride the subway, give some thought to purchasing noise-canceling headphones.
3. Going to work
As indicated by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), 22 million people in the US are subjected to potentially damaging noise levels at work. The highest risk jobs are in manufacturing, farming, construction, the military, and the music industry.
The last thing you need is to spend your total work life amassing hearing loss that will keep you from making the most of your retirement. Speak with your company about its hearing protection plan, and if they don’t have one, contact your local hearing specialist for custom made solutions.
4. Taking drugs and smoking
Smoking impedes blood flow, among other things, which could increase your risk of developing hearing loss—if you really needed another reason to stop smoking. Antibiotics, potent pain medications, and a significant number of other drugs are “ototoxic,” or toxic to the cells of hearing. In fact, there are more than 200 known ototoxic medications.
The bottom line: try to avoid using ototoxic drugs or medications unless completely necessary. Speak to your doctor if you have any questions.
5. Listening to music
85 is turning out to be quite an inconvenient number. Almost all of our favorite hobbies produce decibel levels just above this threshold, and anything over 85 decibels can result in hearing loss. If the threshold were just a little higher, say 100 decibels, we wouldn’t have to worry about it so much.
But 85 it is. And portable music players at max volume get to more than 100 decibels while rock shows reach more than 110. The solution is straight forward: turn down your iPod, wear earplugs at concerts, and minimize your time of exposure to the music.
6. Getting sick or injured
Certain conditions, such as diabetes, together with any traumatic head injuries, places you at a higher risk of developing hearing loss. If you have diabetes, regular exercise, a balanced diet, and regular tracking of glucose levels is vital. And if you drive a motorcycle, wearing a helmet will help protect against traumatic head injuries.
Talk to Your Hearing Specialist
While there are many ways to lose your hearing, a few straightforward lifestyle adjustments can help you conserve your hearing for life. Keep in mind: the small hassle of wearing custom earplugs, driving with the windows up, or turning down your iPod are insignificant in comparison to the major inconvenience of hearing loss later in life.
Ready to take your hearing health seriously? Give us a call today.