The ironic part of hearing loss is that we don’t seem to begin appreciating our favorite sounds until after we’ve lost the ability 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 recurrently 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 closely tied to your capability to hear—regardless of whether you recognize it or not. And if you wait until after you’ve lost your hearing to come to this realization, you’re going to commit a tremendous amount 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 progressively takes place as we grow old. Together 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 aging process or tweak your genes, you can avoid noise-induced hearing loss from the other sources described below. And keep in mind that age-related hearing loss is a great deal more difficult to treat if worsened by avoidable damage.
Persistent exposure to sound volumes above 85 decibels can result in permanent hearing loss, which is not-so-good news if you happen to drive a convertible. New research indicates that driving a convertible with the top down at excessive speeds produces an average sound volume level of 90 decibels. Motorcyclists experience even higher 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 exactly, but you should certainly look for 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 use the subway, think about buying noise-canceling headphones.
3. Going to work
As indicated by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), 22 million workers in the US are exposed to potentially damaging noise volumes at work. The highest risk careers are in manufacturing, farming, construction, the military, and the music industry.
The last thing you want is to spend your total work life amassing hearing loss that will keep you from taking pleasure in your retirement. Check with your manager about its hearing protection plan, and if they do not have one, pay a visit to your local hearing specialist for personalized solutions.
4. Taking drugs and smoking
Smoking interferes with blood flow, among other things, which could increase your risk of developing hearing loss—if you really required another reason to stop smoking. Antibiotics, strong 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 taking 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. All of our favorite hobbies yield decibel levels just over this limit, 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 full 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 limit your length of exposure to the music.
6. Getting sick or injured
Specific ailments, such as diabetes, along 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 blood sugar levels is critical. And if you drive a motorcycle, wearing a helmet will help prevent traumatic head injuries.
Talk to Your Hearing Specialist
While there are several ways to lose your hearing, a few straightforward lifestyle adjustments can help you conserve your hearing for life. Keep in mind: the minimal 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.