When you were younger, you probably considered hearing loss a result of getting old. Older adults around you were probably wearing hearing aids or having a difficult time hearing.
But just like 30 or 60 only seemed old to you until it started to catch up to you, as you learn more about hearing loss, you find it has less to do with the aging process and much more to do with something else.
You need to realize this one thing: Acknowledging that you have hearing loss doesn’t mean that you’re old.
Hearing Loss is an “Any Age Issue”
By the age of 12, audiologists can already identify some hearing loss in 13% of cases. You’ll recognize, this isn’t because a 12 year old is “old”. Teen hearing loss has increased 33% in the last 30 years.
What’s the cause of this?
Disabling hearing loss has already developed for 2% of individuals between the ages of 45 and 55 and 8% of people between the ages of 55 and 64.
Aging isn’t the issue. What you probably consider an age-related hearing loss is 100% preventable. And you have the ability to significantly reduce its progression.
Noise exposure is the most prevalent cause of age associated or “sensorineural” hearing loss.
For generations hearing loss was thought to be inescapable as you get older. But safeguarding and even restoring your hearing is well within the scope of modern science.
How Hearing Loss is Caused by Noise
The first step to safeguarding your hearing is understanding how something as “innocuous” as noise results in hearing loss.
Waves are what sound is composed of. These waves go into your ear canal. They arrive at your inner ear after passing your eardrum.
Inside your inner ear are very small hair cells that vibrate when sound impacts them. Which hair cells oscillate, and how quickly or frequently they vibrate, becomes a neurological code. Your brain is able to translate this code into words, rushing water, a car horn, a cry or anything else you may hear.
But these hairs can oscillate with too much intensity when the inner ear gets sound that is too intense. This level of sound destroys these hairs and they will eventually stop working.
When these hairs die you won’t be able to hear.
Why Noise-Activated Hearing Loss is Irreversible
If you cut your hand, the cut heals. But these tiny hair cells don’t grow back or heal. Over time, as you subject your ears to loud sounds, more and more of these hairs perish.
Hearing loss worsens as they do.
Hearing Damage Can be Caused by These every day Noises
Most people don’t recognize that hearing loss can be caused by every day noises. These things might seem totally harmless:
- Using farm equipment
- Riding a snowmobile/motorcycle
- Working in a factory or other loud profession
- Being a musician
- Cranking up the car stereo
- Wearing head phones/earbuds
- Lawn mowing
- Driving on a busy highway with the windows or top down
- attending a movie/play/concert
You can keep on doing these things. Luckily, you can minimize noise induced hearing loss by taking some protective measures.
How to Make Sure You Don’t “Feel” Older When You Have Hearing Loss
Admitting you have hearing loss, if you’re already dealing with it, doesn’t need to make you feel old. Actually, you will feel older a lot sooner if you fail to recognize your hearing loss because of complications like:
- Strained relationships
- More frequent trips to the ER
- Social Isolation
- Increased Fall Risk
These are all considerably more prevalent in those with untreated hearing loss.
Ways You Can Avoid Additional Hearing Problems
Learning how to stop hearing loss is the first step.
- Get a sound meter app on your smartphone. Determine how loud things really are.
- Determine when volumes get hazardous. In less than 8 hours, irreversible hearing loss can be caused by volumes over 85dB. Permanent hearing loss, at 110 dB, takes place in over 15 minutes. 120 dB and above results in instantaneous hearing loss. 140 to 170 dB is the average level of a gunshot.
- Realize that you’ve already triggered irreversible hearing damage every time you’ve had a hard time hearing right after going to a concert. It will become more obvious over time.
- When it’s required, wear earmuffs and/or earplugs
- When dealing with hearing protection, adhere to any rules that pertain to your circumstance.
- Limit your exposure time to loud noises.
- Standing too close to loudspeakers is a bad idea in any situation.
- 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.
- High blood pressure, low blood oxygen, and some medications can make you more vulnerable at lower levels. Always keep your headphones at or below 50%. Car speakers will fluctuate and a volume meter app can help but when it comes to headphones, no louder than 50% is best policy.
- If you have a hearing aid, use it. The brain will start to atrophy if you don’t use your hearing aid when you require it. It works the same as your muscles. If you let them go, it will be hard to get them back.
Schedule an Appointment to Have a Hearing Exam
Are you procrastinating or in denial? Stop it. You have to accept your hearing loss so that you can take measures to minimize further damage.
Speak with Your Hearing Specialist About Hearing Solutions
Hearing impairment does not have any “natural cure”. If hearing loss is severe, it might be time to get a hearing aid.
Do a Cost to Benefit Analysis of Investing in Hearing Aids
Lots of people are either in denial about hearing loss, or they decide to “just deal with”. They think hearing aids make them seem old. Or they are concerned that they won’t be able to afford them.
But when they comprehend that hearing loss will get worse faster and can cause numerous health and relationship complications, it’s easy to see that the pros well outweigh the cons.
Consult a hearing care professional right away about having a hearing test. And if hearing aids are recommended, don’t be concerned about “feeling old”. Todays hearing aids are stylish and advanced pieces of modern technology.