The ironic part of hearing loss is that we don’t tend to start appreciating our favorite sounds until after we’ve lost the ability to clearly hear them. We don’t pause to think about, for instance, how much we appreciate a good conversation with a close friend until we have to routinely 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 linked to your capability to hear—whether you recognize it or not. And if you wait until after you’ve lost your hearing to come to this recognition, you’re going to spend a tremendous amount of time and effort working to get it back.
So how can you conserve 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 takes place as we grow old. Combined 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 stop the process of getting older or alter your genetics, you can protect against noise-induced hearing loss from the other causes mentioned below. And keep in mind that age-related hearing loss is much more challenging to treat if aggravated by avoidable damage.
Persistent direct exposure to sound volumes above 85 decibels can cause permanent hearing loss, which is bad 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 face even higher sounds and those who take 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 certainly look for ways to limit your collective noise exposure during travel. If you drive a convertible, roll up your car windows and drive a little slower; if you own a motorcycle, put on a helmet and think about earplugs; and if you use the subway, consider buying noise-canceling headphones.
3. Going to work
As reported by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), 22 million employees in the US are exposed to potentially damaging noise volumes on the job. The highest risk professions are in manufacturing, farming, construction, the military, and the music industry.
The last thing you want is to spend your entire working life amassing hearing loss that will keep you from making the most of your retirement. Get in touch with your company about its hearing protection plan, and if they do not have one, check with 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, 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 consuming ototoxic drugs or medications unless absolutely necessary. Speak 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 activities produce decibel levels just over this limit, and any sound over 85 decibels can cause 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 maximum 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 exposure time to the music.
6. Getting sick or injured
Selected ailments, such as diabetes, along with any traumatic head injuries, places you at a higher risk of developing hearing loss. If you have diabetes, frequent exercise, a healthy diet, and regular tracking of blood sugar levels is crucial. And if you drive a motorcycle, using a helmet will help protect against traumatic head injuries.
Talk to Your Hearing Specialist
While there are many ways to lose your hearing, a few straight forward 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 insignificant compared to the major inconvenience of hearing loss later in life.
Ready to take your hearing health seriously? Give us a call today.