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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 quite common. The fact is, the majority of adults will start to notice a change in their hearing as they age. Even small changes in your hearing will be able to be noticed after years of hearing sound. The degree of the loss and how quickly it progresses is best managed with prevention, as is true with most things in life. Your hearing will be impacted later on in your life by the things you decide to do now. It’s never too early to begin or too late to care when it comes to ear health. What are the steps you can take right now to protect your hearing?

Get The Facts About Hearing Loss

Learning how the ears work is the first step to knowing what causes most hearing loss. Age-associated hearing loss, medically known as presbycusis, affects one in three people in this country between the ages of 64 and 74. It is a cumulation of damage to the ears over time. Presbycusis is slight at first and then gets progressively worse.

The ear canal amplifies sound waves several times before they make it to the inner ear. Chemicals are discharged after being bumped by little hairs, which are in turn shaken by inbound sound waves. These chemicals are translated by the brain into electrical signals, which are then “heard” by the brain as sound.

Malfunctioning over time, due to the constant vibration, the tiny hairs finally quit working. These hair cells don’t restore themselves, either, so once they’re gone, they don’t come back. If you lose those tiny hairs, there are no chemicals released to produce the electrical signal which the brain translates as sound.

How exactly do these hair cells become damaged? It can be considerably increased by several factors but it can be anticipated, to varying degrees, as a part of aging. Sound waves come in countless strengths, though; that is what’s known as volume. The louder the volume, the stronger the sound wave and the bigger the impact on the hair cells.

Direct exposure to loud sound isn’t the only consideration. Chronic diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes take a toll, as well.

How to Protect Your Hearing

Good hearing hygiene is a big part of taking care of 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 damaging to the ears. You may think that it takes a very loud volume to cause injury, but it doesn’t. You shouldn’t have to raise your voice to talk over another sound. If you do that sound is too loud.

Your hearing will be impacted later on by even a few loud minutes and even more so by constant exposure. The good news is protecting your ears from expected loud noises is fairly easy. Use hearing protection when you:

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

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

Manage The Noise Around You

Even the items around your house can produce enough noise to become a problem over time. Nowadays, appliances and other home devices come with noise ratings. It’s much better to use devices with lower noise ratings.

Don’t worry about speaking up if the noise is too loud when you are at a restaurant or party. A restaurant manager may be willing to turn the background music down for you or even move you to a different table away from noisy speakers or clanging dishes.

Pay Attention to Noise Levels While at Work

When you’re working, protect your ears if your work-place is loud. Get your own hearing protection if it is not provided by your boss. Here are some products that can protect your ears:

  • Earplugs
  • Earmuffs
  • Headphones

If you mention your situation, chances are your manager will be willing to listen.

Give up Smoking

There are lots of good reasons to quit smoking and you can add hearing loss to the list. Studies show that cigarette smokers are much more likely to experience age-related hearing loss. Second-hand smoke can also speed up hearing loss.

All The Medications That You Take Should be Closely Evaluated

Some medications are ototoxic, meaning they damage your hearing. A few typical culprits include:

  • Narcotic analgesics
  • Cardiac medication
  • 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. If you use pain relievers, do so only when necessary and read the labels. Ask your doctor first if you are not sure.

Be Good to 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 getting regular exercise. Do what is necessary to manage your high blood pressure like taking your medication and lowering 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 think you have hearing loss or if you hear ringing in your ears, get a hearing test. The sooner you recognize there is a problem, the sooner you can do something about it, like getting hearing aids. It’s never too late to take care of your hearing, so if you notice any change, even a small one, schedule an appointment with a hearing care professional to find out what to do to keep it from getting even worse.

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