The ironic part of hearing loss is that we don’t seem to start appreciating our favorite sounds until after we’ve lost the capability to clearly hear them. We don’t stop to contemplate, for instance, how much we enjoy a good conversation with a close friend until we have to persistently ask them to repeat themselves.
Whether it’s your favorite Mozart album or the songs of a Bluejay first thing in the morning, your total well being is directly connected to your ability to hear—whether you recognize it or not. And if you wait until after you’ve lost your hearing to come to this understanding, you’re going to invest a good deal of time and effort trying to get it back.
So how can you preserve your ability to hear?
Here are 6 ways you could lose your hearing and what you can do about it.
1. Genetics and aging
Age-related hearing loss, also called presbycusis, is the loss of hearing that slowly and gradually arises as we get older. Together with presbycusis, there is also some evidence suggesting that genetics plays a role, and that some of us are more prone to hearing loss than others.
While there’s not much you can do to prevent the process of getting older or alter your genetics, you can avoid noise-induced hearing loss from the other sources identified below. And keep in mind that age-related hearing loss is a great deal more difficult to treat if made worse by avoidable damage.
Habitual direct exposure to sound levels above 85 decibels can result in permanent hearing loss, which is not-so-good news if you happen to own a convertible. New research indicates that driving a convertible with the top down at high speeds produces an average sound volume level of 90 decibels. Motorcyclists face even louder sounds and those who ride the subway are at risk as well.
So does everyone either have to abandon travel or live with permanent earplugs? Not quite, but you should certainly find ways to reduce your cumulative noise exposure during travel. If you drive a convertible, roll up your windows and drive a little slower; if you ride a motorcycle, put on a helmet and think about earplugs; and if you ride the subway, give some thought to purchasing noise-canceling headsets.
3. Going to work
As indicated by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), 22 million workers in the US are subjected to potentially harmful noise levels on the job. The highest risk careers are in manufacturing, farming, construction, the military, and the music industry.
The last thing you need is to spend your total work life accumulating hearing loss that will prevent you from enjoying your retirement. Consult with your supervisor about its hearing protection plan, and if they don’t have one, talk with your local hearing instrument specialist for personalized solutions.
4. Taking drugs and smoking
Smoking impedes blood flow, on top of other things, which may increase your risk of developing hearing loss—if you really needed another reason to quit. Antibiotics, potent pain medications, and a significant number of other drugs are “ototoxic,” or damaging to the cells of hearing. In fact, there are more than 200 known ototoxic medications.
The bottom line: try to avoid using ototoxic drugs or medications unless completely necessary. Consult with your doctor if you have any questions.
5. Listening to music
85 is turning out to be quite an inconvenient number. Many of our favorite activities yield decibel levels just over this threshold, and any sound over 85 decibels can cause hearing loss. If the threshold were just a little higher, say 100 decibels, we wouldn’t have to worry about it so much.
But 85 it is. And portable mp3 players at max volume get to more than 100 decibels while rock concerts reach more than 110. The solution is straightforward: turn down your iPod, wear earplugs at live shows, and reduce your length of exposure to the music.
6. Getting sick or injured
Specific ailments, such as diabetes, together with any traumatic head injuries, places you at greater risk of developing hearing loss. If you have diabetes, frequent exercise, a balanced diet, and regular tracking of blood sugar levels is essential. And if you drive a motorcycle, using a helmet will help prevent traumatic head injuries.
Talk to Your Hearing Specialist
Although there are several ways to lose your hearing, a few easy lifestyle modifications can help you safeguard your hearing for life. Keep in mind: the modest hassle of wearing custom earplugs, driving with the windows up, or turning down your iPod are slight in comparison to the substantial inconvenience of hearing loss later in life.
Ready to take your hearing health seriously? Give us a call today.