Like many people, you’re probably under the impression that hearing loss, much like gray hair and wrinkles, is just something that happens as you get older. But it doesn’t have to if you take proactive steps to protect hearing before it fades. Here are some suggestions to help you enjoy hearing the sounds of life for as long as you live.
Keep Your Hearing for Life
Begin by turning down the volume while listening to music through earbuds or headphones. The threshold for noise damage is 85 decibels (dB), yet many devices allow you crank the music up to 95 dB or higher! That’s more than enough to damage or destroy the tiny nerves in your inner ear called hair cells. We all have a finite number of these precious cells that conduct sound to your brain for processing.
Once they’re gone they don’t regrow, and the more you lose the less you’ll hear. So, if you want to enjoy your tunes for years to come, play them well below 85 dB now, and limit yourself to an hour or less of continuous listening before you take an equally long break.
Noise is everywhere — on our commute, at our places of work, during our recreational activities. For example, the sound of a subway whooshing by the platform reaches approximately 90-100 dB. Alone or combined with high noise generated elsewhere, you could begin losing your hearing with only 18 minutes of daily exposure. If a quieter route isn’t an option, keep a pair of over-the-counter foam earplugs in your pocket to wear on the platform and don’t add noise by blasting music through your earbuds once you board.
And what about at work? According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), four million of us are exposed to damaging noise levels at work daily. Most at risk were those working in manufacturing and construction, but occupations from musician to airport staff also bring high decibel level exposure. If you’re surrounded by noise at work, make sure you always wear appropriate hearing protection and take regular breaks.
Not all hearing loss is due to noise exposure. More than 200 medications are ototoxic — literally poisonous to your ears. These include certain antibiotics, chemotherapy medications, pain relievers, diuretics, and more. Depending on what you take and contributing factors like heredity and noise exposure, they can cost you part or all of your hearing either temporarily or permanently.
So, what can you do if you have to take meds that could damage your hearing for the sake of your overall health? Talk to your physician about the risks and find out if there is an equally effective but hearing safe option. If not, ask your primary doctor to consult with a hearing care professional on your case, so they can monitor your hearing ability and provide suggestions on protecting your ears during treatment, or at least offer an option for treating any hearing loss that results.
Certain behaviors can cause serious and possibly permanent damage to your hearing. Although research is ongoing, studies indicate that high alcohol consumption over long periods can cause auditory nerve damage, resulting in hearing loss. Overeating can lead to obesity, a significant contributor to the development of Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Both conditions are known co-morbidities of hearing loss, because they disrupt blood flow throughout the body.
Your hair cells are extremely vulnerable to a lack of adequate blood supply — without it, they die. In fact, worsening hearingis often an early warning sign of diabetes or cardiovascular disease.The best solution is avoidance. Drink in moderation, if at all, and make healthier food choices. Regular exercise is also a good way to keep your blood flowing freely and to stave off disease.
Even if you take every step possible to protect your hearing, some hearing loss is beyond all control. Factors like heredity, disease, illness, and exposure to sudden, unexpected bursts of noise can still rob you of this valuable sense. If the loss is mild enough you might choose to live your life around it.
However, an increasing body of research has linked even moderate hearing loss to bigger health concerns, including the development of physiological disorders like clinical depression and degenerative conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Hearing loss can also interfere with your ability to do your job effectively and your enjoyment of social activities.
Ignoring a hearing loss substantive enough to affect your life is not a solution. But talking to a qualified hearing care professional can help. Arrange for a hearing test to determine just how much hearing you’ve lost and then work together to find a solution, such as hearing aids. Ask your hearing care professional about Signia brand hearing aids and how they can help you enjoy life to its fullest once again. 🙂