When you were younger, you probably thought of hearing loss as a consequence of getting old. You likely had older adults in your life struggling to comprehend words or wearing hearing aids.
In your youth, getting old seems so far away but as time passes you begin to realize that hearing loss is about much more than aging.
You need to understand this one thing: It doesn’t mean that you’re old just because you admit you have hearing loss.
Hearing Loss is an “Any Age Problem”
In 13% of cases, audiologists can already notice hearing loss by the age of 12. You’ll recognize, this isn’t because 12-year-olds are “old”. Teenage hearing loss has increased 33% in the past 30 years.
What’s at work here?
2% of 45 – 55-year-olds and 8% of 55 – 64 year-olds already have disabling hearing loss.
It’s not an aging issue. What you may think of as age-related hearing loss is 100% avoidable. And you have the ability to dramatically minimize its advancement.
Noise exposure is the most prevalent cause of age associated or “sensorineural” hearing loss.
Hearing loss was, for decades, assumed to be an inescapable part of aging. But safeguarding and even restoring your hearing is well within the grasp of modern science.
How Noise Leads to Hearing Loss
Learning how noise results in hearing loss is step one in safeguarding hearing.
Waves are what sound is made of. These waves go into your ear canal. They go down past your eardrum into your inner ear.
Here, little hair cells in your inner ear oscillate. What hair cells oscillate, and how rapidly or frequently they vibrate, becomes a neurological code. Your brain can translate this code into words, rushing water, a car horn, a cry or anything else you might hear.
But these hairs can vibrate with too much intensity when the inner ear gets sound that is too intense. This level of sound damages these hairs and they will eventually die.
When these hairs die you can no longer hear.
Noise-Activated Hearing Loss is Irreversible, Here’s Why
If you cut your hand, the cut heals. But when you damage these little hair cells, they cannot heal, and they cannot grow back. The more often you’re exposed to loud sounds, the more little hair cells fail.
Hearing loss gets worse as they do.
Common Noises That Cause Hearing Damage
Many people are shocked to discover that every day activities can result in hearing loss. You might not think twice about:
- Playing in a band
- attending a concert/play/movies
- Running farm equipment
- Lawn mowing
- Turning the car stereo way up
- Driving on a busy highway with the windows or top down
- Going to a noisy workplace
- Wearing head phones/earbuds
- Riding a motorcycle/snowmobile
You don’t need to quit these things. Luckily, you can decrease noise induced hearing loss by taking some safety measures.
How to Keep Hearing Loss From Making You “Feel” Older
Acknowledging that you have hearing loss, if you’re already dealing with it, doesn’t have to make you feel old. Actually, you will feel older a lot sooner if you fail to acknowledge your hearing loss because of complications like:
- Social Isolation
- More frequent trips to the ER
- Increased Fall Risk
- Strained relationships
These are all considerably more common in people with neglected hearing loss.
Stop Further Hearing Damage
Start by understanding how to prevent hearing loss.
- Download a sound meter app on your mobile device. Find out how loud things actually are.
- Know about hazardous levels. In under 8 hours, irreversible damage can be the result of volumes above 85dB. Permanent hearing loss, at 110 dB, happens in over 15 minutes. 120 dB and above causes instant hearing loss. A gunshot is 140 to 170 dB.
- Realize that you’ve already caused permanent hearing damage each time you’ve had a hard time hearing right after going to a concert. It will become more severe with time.
- Wear earplugs and/or sound-dampening earmuffs when appropriate.
- Follow work hearing protection rules.
- If you have to be exposed to loud sounds, limit your exposure time.
- Standing too close to loudspeakers is a bad idea in any setting.
- Some headphones and earbuds have built in volume control for a safer listening experience. They never go over 90 dB. At that volume, even nonstop, all day listening wouldn’t cause hearing damage for most individuals.
- Even at lower volumes, if you have low blood oxygen, high blood pressure, or are taking some common medication, you’re hearing may still be in danger. To be safe, do not listen on headphones at above 50%. Car speakers will vary and a volume meter app will help but regarding headphones, no louder than 50% is best policy.
- If you have a hearing aid, wear it. The brain will start to atrophy if you don’t use your hearing aid when you need it. It works the same way as your muscles. If you stop making use of them, it will be difficult to start again.
Get a Hearing Test
Are you procrastinating or in denial? Stop it. You need to accept your hearing loss so that you will take measures to reduce further harm.
Consult With Your Hearing Professional About Solutions For Your Hearing Loss.
There aren’t any “natural cures” for hearing loss. It might be time to get a hearing aid if your hearing loss is extreme.
Do a Cost to Benefit Analysis of Investing in Hearing Aids
Lots of people who do acknowledge their hearing loss just choose to deal with it. They believe that hearing aids make them look old. Or they are concerned that they won’t be able to afford them.
It’s easy to recognize, however, that when the adverse effect on relationships and health will cost more over time.
Speak with a hearing care professional right away about having a hearing test. And if hearing aids are recommended, don’t worry about “feeling old”. Hearing aids today are much sleeker and more sophisticated than you may believe!