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

Hearing loss is common for most people, but does it have to be that way? The truth is, the majority of people will begin to recognize a change in their hearing as they get older. Even small differences in your hearing ability will be able to be noticed after years of hearing sound. Prevention is the best way of controlling the extent of the loss and how fast it progresses, which is the case with most things in life. Your hearing will be affected later on in your life by the things you decide to do now. Concerning the health of your ears, it’s never too late to care or too early to start. What are the steps you can take now to protect your hearing?

Understanding Hearing Loss

Understanding what causes most hearing loss begins with finding out how the ears actually work. Age-related hearing loss, medically known as presbycusis, impacts one in every three people in this country between the ages of 64 and 74. It is a cumulation of damage to the ears over the years. 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. Chemicals are released 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.

Failing over time, because of the constant vibration, the tiny hairs eventually quit working. Once these hair cells are lost they won’t grow back. If you lose those tiny hairs, there are no chemicals released to generate the electrical impulse which the brain interprets as sound.

How exactly do these hair cells become damaged? It will happen, to a point, with aging but there are other things which will also contribute. The word “volume” refers to the power of sound waves. More damage is done to the hair cells if they receive stronger sound waves, and that means a higher volume of sound.

Direct exposure to loud noise isn’t the only factor. Chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure and diabetes have an affect, as well.

Protecting Your Hearing

You should rely on strong hearing hygiene to protect your ears over time. Volume is at the heart of the issue. Sound is a lot more dangerous when it’s at a higher volume or decibel level. It doesn’t take as much as you may think to lead to damage. 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 affected later on by even a couple of loud minutes and even more so by continuous exposure. The good news is protecting your hearing from expected loud noises is really easy. Wear hearing protection when you:

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

Avoid using devices designed to amplify and isolate sound, too, including headphones or earbuds. A reduced volume should be chosen and use conventional speakers.

Day-to-Day Noises That Can be an Issue

Even the things around your house can make enough noise to become a threat over time. The noise rating should be taken into consideration before you buy a new appliance. The lower the noise rating the better.

If the noise is too loud when you are out at a party or restaurant, don’t be scared to speak up. The party’s host, or possibly even the restaurant manager might be willing to help accommodate for your issue.

Pay Attention to Noise Levels at Work

When you’re working, protect your ears if your work-place is loud. Buy your own ear protection if it’s not provided by your employer. Here are a few products that can protect your hearing:

  • Earplugs
  • Headphones
  • Earmuffs

If you mention your situation, it’s likely that your employer will be willing to listen.

Quit Smoking

Hearing impairment is yet another good reason to give up smoking. Studies demonstrate that smokers are much more likely to get age-related hearing loss. Second-hand smoke can also speed up hearing loss.

Double Check Medications

Ototoxic medications are known to cause damage to your ears. Some typical offenders include:

  • Aspirin
  • Diuretics
  • NSAIDS
  • Narcotic analgesics
  • Antidepressants and mood stabilizers
  • Cardiac medication
  • Certain antibiotics

This list is a combination of over-the-counter products and prescription medications and it’s not even all of them. Only take pain relievers if you really need them and make sure you check all of the labels. Consult your doctor first if you are uncertain.

Treat Your Body Well

Exercising and eating right are things you should do for your general health but they are also important to your hearing health as well. Lessen the amount of sodium you eat and take your medications to manage your high blood pressure. The better you take care of your health, the lower your chances of chronic health problems that might cost you your hearing over time, like diabetes.

If you think you have hearing loss or if you hear ringing in your ears, get your hearing tested. Pay close attention to your hearing because you might not even know that you may need hearing aids. Schedule an appointment with a hearing expert to keep any problems from getting worse. It’s never too late.