The ironic part of hearing loss is that we don’t tend to begin appreciating our favorite sounds until after we’ve lost the capability to clearly hear them. We don’t pause to give thought to, for example, how much we enjoy a good conversation with a friend until we have to routinely ask them to repeat themselves.
Whether it’s your favorite Mozart album or the sounds of a Bluejay first thing in the morning, your total well being is closely connected to your ability to hear—whether you realize it or not. And if you wait until after you’ve lost your hearing to come to this understanding, you’re going to commit a great deal of time and effort trying to get it back.
So how can you retain 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 gradually arises as we get older. Together with presbycusis, there is also some evidence indicating that genetics plays a role, and that some of us are more vulnerable to hearing loss than others.
While there’s not much you can do to prevent the process of getting older or tweak your genes, you can avoid noise-induced hearing loss from the other causes illustrated below. And keep in mind that age-related hearing loss is significantly more difficult to treat if aggravated by avoidable damage.
Continuous direct exposure to sound levels above 85 decibels can result in permanent hearing loss, which is bad news if you happen to own a convertible. New research indicates that driving a convertible with the top down at high speeds yields an average sound volume of 90 decibels. Motorcyclists encounter even higher sounds and those who ride the subway are at risk as well.
So does everyone either have to forego travel or live with permanent earplugs? Not quite, but you should certainly find ways to reduce your collective noise exposure during travel. If you own a convertible, roll up your car windows and drive a little slower; if you ride a motorcycle, wear a helmet and think about earplugs; and if you ride the subway, think about purchasing noise-canceling headsets.
3. Going to work
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), 22 million people in the US are exposed to potentially harmful noise volumes at work. The highest risk professions 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 keep you from enjoying your retirement. Consult your employer about its hearing protection plan, and if they don’t have one, talk to your local hearing specialist for personalized solutions.
4. Taking drugs and smoking
Smoking impedes blood flow, among 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 toxic 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 absolutely 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 hobbies produce decibel levels just above this threshold, and any sound over 85 decibels can cause hearing loss. If the limit were just a little higher, say 100 decibels, we wouldn’t have to worry about it so much.
But 85 it is. And portable music players at max volume get to more than 100 decibels while rock shows reach more than 110. The solution is simple: turn down your iPod, wear earplugs at live shows, and reduce your time of exposure to the music.
6. Getting sick or injured
Selected disorders, such as diabetes, together with any traumatic head injuries, places you at a higher risk of developing hearing loss. If you have diabetes, frequent exercise, a balanced diet, and continual tracking of glucose levels is crucial. And if you drive a motorcycle, using a helmet will help protect against traumatic head injuries.
Talk to Your Hearing Specialist
Although there are many ways to lose your hearing, a few simple lifestyle adjustments can help you sustain your hearing for life. Keep in mind: the minor inconvenience 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.