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McDonald Hearing Services - Grand Rapids, MI

Couple enjoying their motorcycle while protecting their ears from further hearing loss.

It’s typical to have hearing loss as you grow older but does it need to happen? As they age, the vast majority of adults will begin to notice a change in their ability to hear. Even slight differences in your ability to hear will be able to be noticed after years of hearing sound. The degree of the loss and how rapidly it progresses is best managed with prevention, which is true with most things in life. Later in life, the extent of your hearing loss will be determined by the choices you make now. You should carefully consider it sooner than later because you can still avoid further hearing loss. What can be done to prevent your hearing loss from becoming worse?

Learn About Your Hearing Loss

Recognizing what causes most hearing loss starts with learning how the ears actually work. Age-associated hearing loss, known medically as presbycusis, affects one in three people in this country from 64 to 74. It is an accumulation of damage to the ears over the years. Presbycusis starts slowly and then gets worse over time.

Sound waves reach the inner ear only after having been amplified several times by the ear canal. Chemicals are released after being bumped into by little hairs, which are in turn shaken by incoming waves of sound. These chemicals are interpreted by the brain as electrical signals, which are then “heard” by the brain as sound.

All of this shaking eventually causes the hairs to start to break down and malfunction. These hair cells won’t fix themselves, either, so once gone, they’re gone. If you lose those little hairs, there are no chemicals released to produce the electrical signal which the brain interprets as sound.

What’s behind this hair cell destruction? It will happen, to some extent, with aging but there are other things which will also contribute. How strong a sound wave is, is generally known as “volume”. If the sound is at a higher volume, then the strength of the sound wave is greater, and the hair cells take more damage.

Loud sound is certainly a consideration but there are others too. Also, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other chronic ailments will have a strong effect.

How to Take Care Of Your Hearing

Good hearing hygiene is an important part of taking care of your ears over time. Volume is at the root of the issue. When sound is at a higher volume or decibel level, it is exponentially more damaging to the ears. Damage is caused at a far lower decibel level then you would realize. You shouldn’t have to raise your voice to talk over another sound. If you do that sound is too loud.

Your hearing can be impacted later on by even a few loud minutes and even more so by continued exposure. Fortunately protecting your hearing from expected loud noises is pretty easy. Use hearing protection when you:

  • Ride a motorcycle
  • Participate in loud activities.
  • Go to a concert
  • Run power equipment

Avoid using accessories made to amplify and isolate sound, also, like headphones or earbuds. The old-fashioned way is a much safer way to listen to music and that means at a reduced volume.

Manage The Noise Around You

Over time, even everyday sounds can become a hearing threat. The noise rating should be taken into consideration before you get a new appliance. It’s far better to use equipment with lower noise ratings.

If the noise is too loud when you are out at a party or restaurant, don’t be scared to let someone know. A restaurant manager may be willing to turn down the background music for you or even move you to a different table away from noisy speakers or clanging dishes.

Be Noise Conscious While at Work

Take the proper steps to safeguard your hearing if your job exposes you to loud noises. Purchase your own hearing protection if it is not provided by your manager. There are numerous products out there that are made to protect you such as:

  • Headphones
  • Earplugs
  • Earmuffs

There’s a good chance that if you bring up the concern, your employer will listen.

Stop Smoking

Hearing impairment is yet another good reason to give up smoking. Studies demonstrate that cigarette smokers are much more likely to get age-related hearing loss. If you are exposed to second-hand smoke this is also true.

All The Medications That You Take Should be Closely Evaluated

Some medications are known to cause hearing damage. This is called ototoxicity. Several common culprits include:

  • Diuretics
  • NSAIDS
  • Cardiac medication
  • Aspirin
  • Mood stabilizers and antidepressants
  • Certain antibiotics
  • Narcotic analgesics

There are many other items that go on this list, including some over the counter and some prescription medications. Only use pain relievers when you really need them and be sure to read all of the labels. If you are uncertain about a drug, consult your doctor before taking it.

Be Good to Your Body

To slow down hearing loss it’s especially important, as you get older, to do the normal things that keep you healthy, like eating right and getting regular exercise. Decrease the amount of sodium you eat and take your medications to manage your high blood pressure. You have a lower risk of chronic health problems, such as diabetes, if you take good care of your body and this leads to lower chances of hearing problems.

If you think you hear ringing in your ears or if you have some hearing loss, have your hearing checked. You might need hearing aids and not even know it so pay close attention to your hearing. If you detect any changes in your hearing, schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist. It’s never too late to take care of your hearing.