The strange part of hearing loss is that we don’t have a tendency to start appreciating our favorite sounds until after we’ve lost the ability to clearly hear them. We don’t pause to contemplate, for example, how much we enjoy a good conversation with a friend until we have to continually ask them to repeat themselves.
Whether it’s your favorite Mozart record or the songs of a Bluejay first thing in the morning, your total well being is closely linked to your ability to hear—regardless of whether you realize it or not. And if you wait until after you’ve lost your hearing to come to this awareness, you’re going to dedicate a great deal of time and effort trying to get it back.
So how can you defend 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 occurs as we grow older. Combined with presbycusis, there is also some evidence indicating that genetics plays a role, and that some of us are more susceptible to hearing loss than others.
While there’s not much you can do to avoid the process of getting older or alter your genes, you can avoid noise-induced hearing loss from the other sources mentioned below. And keep in mind that age-related hearing loss is significantly more challenging to treat if made worse by avoidable damage.
Continuous exposure to sound volumes above 85 decibels can lead to permanent hearing loss, which is not-so-good news if you happen to own a convertible. New research reveals that driving a convertible with the top down at high speeds yields an average sound volume level of 90 decibels. Motorcyclists encounter even louder 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 exactly, but you should find ways to limit 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, put on a helmet and consider earplugs; and if you ride the subway, consider buying noise-canceling headphones.
3. Going to work
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), 22 million employees in the US are subjected 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 amassing hearing loss that will keep you from taking pleasure in your retirement. Consult your supervisor about its hearing protection plan, and if they do not have one, talk to your local hearing specialist for custom made solutions.
4. Taking drugs and smoking
Smoking interferes with blood flow, among other things, which could enhance your risk of developing hearing loss—if you really needed another reason to stop smoking. Antibiotics, potent pain medications, and a large 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 absolutely necessary. Talk to 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 produce decibel levels just above this limit, and any sound over 85 decibels can result in 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
Certain 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 healthy diet, and regular monitoring of glucose levels is essential. And if you drive a motorcycle, wearing a helmet will help prevent traumatic head injuries.
Talk to Your Hearing Specialist
Although there are numerous ways to lose your hearing, a few straightforward lifestyle alterations can help you retain your hearing for life. Remember: the minor hassle of wearing custom earplugs, driving with the windows up, or turning down your iPod are small in comparison to the major inconvenience of hearing loss later in life.
Ready to take your hearing health seriously? Give us a call today.