The ironic part of hearing loss is that we don’t tend to begin appreciating our favorite sounds until after we’ve lost the capacity to clearly hear them. We don’t stop to think about, for instance, how much we enjoy a good conversation with a friend until we have to repeatedly ask them to repeat themselves.
Whether it’s your favorite Mozart record or the sounds of a Bluejay first thing in the morning, your total well being is closely connected to your capability to hear—whether you realize it or not. And if you wait until after you’ve lost your hearing to come to this realization, you’re going to dedicate a tremendous amount of time and effort working to get it back.
So how can you safeguard 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 steadily occurs as we get older. Combined 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 halt the process of getting older or modify your genes, you can avoid noise-induced hearing loss from the other causes discussed below. And keep in mind that age-related hearing loss is a great deal more complicated to treat if worsened by preventable damage.
Repeated direct exposure to sound levels above 85 decibels can result in permanent hearing loss, which is not-so-good news if you happen to drive a convertible. New research reveals that driving a convertible with the top down at high speeds produces an average sound volume of 90 decibels. Motorcyclists face even louder sounds and those who take the subway are at risk as well.
So does everybody either have to abandon travel or live with permanent earplugs? Not exactly, but you should look for ways to limit 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, wear a helmet and consider earplugs; and if you take the subway, consider purchasing noise-canceling headphones.
3. Going to work
As stated by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), 22 million employees in the US are subjected to potentially damaging noise volumes on the job. 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 making the most of your retirement. Talk to your manager about its hearing protection plan, and if they don’t have one, talk with your local hearing specialist for custom made solutions.
4. Taking drugs and smoking
Smoking interferes with 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, strong pain medications, and a large 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 produce decibel levels just over this limit, and any sound over 85 decibels can result in hearing loss. If the threshold were just slightly 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 straight forward: turn down your iPod, wear earplugs at live shows, and limit your time of exposure to the music.
6. Getting sick or injured
Selected disorders, 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 frequent 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 many ways to lose your hearing, a few straight forward lifestyle alterations can help you sustain your hearing for life. Keep in mind: 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.