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

Loss of hearing is common for the majority of people, but is it inevitable? As they age, most adults will start to notice a subtle change in their hearing ability. That change is really the effect of a lot of years of listening to sound. Just like most things in life, though, prevention is the key to controlling the extent of that loss and how quickly it progresses. There are things you can do now that will impact your hearing later on in your life. It’s never too soon to start or too late to care with regards to your ear health. You really want to keep your hearing from getting worse, but what can be done?

Learn About Your Hearing Loss

Recognizing 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 every three people in the U.S. 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 worse over time.

Sound waves reach the inner ear only after having been amplified a few times by the ear canal. Sound waves jiggle little hairs that bump against chemical releasing structures. These chemicals are transformed into electrical signals that the brain interprets as sound.

Malfunctioning over time, because of the constant vibration, the tiny hairs finally quit working. When these hair cells are destroyed, they are gone forever. The sound is not converted into a signal that the brain can understand without those little vibrating hairs.

What’s the story behind this hair cell destruction? It will happen, to a point, with aging but there are other factors which will also contribute. The term “volume” refers to the strength of sound waves. The louder the volume, the stronger the sound wave and the bigger the injury to the hair cells.

Loud sound is undoubtedly a factor but there are others too. Additionally, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other chronic diseases will have a strong effect.

How to Protect Your Hearing

You need to rely on good hearing hygiene to protect your ears over time. Volume is at the root of the problem. Sound is measured using decibels and the higher the decibel level the more hazardous the noise. It doesn’t take as much as you might think to lead to hearing damage. If you notice that you have to raise your voice to talk over a noise, it’s too loud.

Even a few loud minutes, never mind frequent exposure, will be enough to cause a detrimental effect later on. On the plus side, it’s pretty easy to take precautions to protect your hearing when you know you’re going to be around loud sound. Wear hearing protection when you:

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

Avoid using accessories designed to amplify and isolate sound, too, including headphones and earbuds. The old-fashioned way is a less dangerous way to partake of music and that means at a lower volume.

Manage The Noise Around You

Over time, even everyday sounds will become a hearing threat. The noise rating should be checked before you invest in a new appliance. Try to use appliances that have a lower noise rating.

Don’t worry about speaking up if the noise gets too loud when you’re at a restaurant or party. The party’s host, or possibly even the restaurant manager might be willing to help accommodate for your issue.

Be Aware of Noise Levels at Work

When you’re working, protect your ears if your job is loud. If your boss doesn’t provide hearing protection, get your own. Here are a few products that will protect your ears:

  • Earmuffs
  • Earplugs
  • Headphones

Your employer will probably be willing to listen if you bring up your concerns.

Quit Smoking

There are lots of good reasons to quit smoking and you can add hearing loss to the long list. Studies demonstrate that smokers are much more likely to get age-related hearing loss. If you are subjected to second-hand smoke this is also true.

Look Twice at Medications

Ototoxic medications are known to cause damage to your ears. Several common offenders include:

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

This list is a combination of over-the-counter products and prescription medications and it’s not even all of them. Read the label of any pain relievers you buy and take them only when you really need them. Consult your doctor first if you are not certain.

Take Good Care of Your Body

The little things you should do anyway like eating right and exercise are an important part of preventing hearing loss from getting worse, especially as you get older. Do what is needed to deal with your high blood pressure like taking your medication and decreasing sodium intake. 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 believe that you hear ringing in your ears or if you have some hearing loss, have your hearing examined. The sooner you realize there is a problem, the sooner you can do something about it, such as getting hearing aids. It’s never too late to start taking 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 stop it from getting worse.

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