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

Hearing loss is normal for the majority of people, but is it inevitable? As they age, most adults will notice a subtle change in their hearing ability. Even slight differences in your ability to hear will be able to be noticed after years of hearing sound. Prevention is the best method of managing the extent of the loss and how quickly it progresses, which is true of most things in life. Later in life, the extent of your hearing loss will depend on the decisions you make now. It’s never too soon to begin or too late to care with regards to your ear health. What steps can you take right now to protect your hearing?

Comprehending Hearing Loss

Understanding what causes the majority of hearing loss begins with learning how the ears actually work. Age-associated hearing loss, known medically as presbycusis, affects one in three people in this country from 64 to 74. It is an accumulation of damage to the ears over time. Presbycusis starts slowly and then gets worse over time.

Sound waves get to the inner ear only after having been amplified a few times by the ear canal. As it arrives, the sound vibrates very small hairs cells, causing them to bump into structures which release chemicals to create an electrical message which the brain interprets as sound.

All of this shaking eventually causes the hairs to start to break down and misfunction. When these hair cells are destroyed, they are gone for good. Without those cells to generate the electrical impulses, the sound is never translated into a language the brain can comprehend.

How exactly do these hair cells become damaged? There are numerous contributing factors including normal aging. How strong a sound wave is, is known as “volume”. If the sound is at a higher volume, then the force of the sound wave is greater, and the hair cells take more damage.

Direct exposure to loud noise isn’t the only consideration. Also, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other chronic diseases will take a toll.

Safeguarding Your Hearing

You need to rely on strong hearing hygiene to take care of your ears over time. Volume is at the heart of the problem. Sound is measured using decibels and the higher the decibel the more hazardous the noise. Damage happens at a far lower decibel level then you might think. You shouldn’t have to raise your voice to talk over another sound. If you do that sound is too loud.

Your hearing can be impaired later on by even a couple of loud minutes and even more so by constant exposure. Taking precautions when you expect to be subjected to loud sound, luckily, is pretty easy. Use hearing protection when you:

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

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

Every-Day Noises That Can Become a Problem

Even the items in your home can make enough noise to become a problem over time. The noise rating should be checked before you buy a new appliance. Try to use appliances that have a lower noise rating.

When you are out at a restaurant or party, don’t be afraid to tell someone if the noise gets too loud. A restaurant manager may be willing to turn down the background music for you or perhaps even move you to another table away from noisy speakers or clanging dishes.

Pay Attention to Noise Levels While at Work

Take steps to safeguard your hearing if your job subjects you to loud sounds. If your employer doesn’t provide hearing protection, buy your own. Here are several products that can protect your hearing:

  • Headphones
  • Earmuffs
  • Earplugs

Your employer will most likely listen if you bring up your worries.

Quit Smoking

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

Check And Double Check Your Medications

Ototoxic medications are known to cause damage to your ears. Some common culprits include:

  • Aspirin
  • Narcotic analgesics
  • Mood stabilizers and antidepressants
  • Certain antibiotics
  • Cardiac medication
  • Diuretics
  • NSAIDS

The true list is quite a bit longer than this one and includes prescription medication and over the counter products. Only use pain relievers when you really need them and make sure you check all of the labels. If you are unsure about a drug, ask your doctor before taking it.

Be Good to Your Body

To prevent hearing loss it’s especially important, as you get older, to do the normal things that keep you healthy, like eating well and exercising. Reduce the amount of sodium you consume and take your medications to deal with your high blood pressure. The better you care for your body, the lower your risk of chronic illnesses that could cost you your hearing over time, like diabetes.

If you have hearing loss or if you have ringing in your ears, get a hearing exam. Pay close attention to your hearing because you might not even realize that you need hearing aids. If you detect any changes in your hearing, schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist. It’s not too late to take care of your hearing.