The strange 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 example, how much we appreciate a good conversation with a friend until we have to constantly 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 directly linked 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 awareness, you’re going to devote 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 progressively occurs as we get older. Along 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 slow down the process of getting older or alter your genes, you can avoid noise-induced hearing loss from the other sources mentioned below. And keep in mind that age-related hearing loss is considerably more difficult to treat if exacerbated by preventable damage.
Repeated exposure to sound volumes above 85 decibels can cause permanent hearing loss, which is not-so-good news if you happen to drive a convertible. New research suggests that driving a convertible with the top down at excessive speeds yields an average sound volume 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 abandon travel or live with permanent earplugs? Not exactly, but you should find ways to limit your collective noise exposure during travel. If you own a convertible, roll up your windows and drive a little slower; if you own a motorcycle, wear a helmet and consider earplugs; and if you ride the subway, consider buying noise-canceling headsets.
3. Going to work
As reported by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), 22 million people in the US are subjected to potentially hazardous noise levels on the job. The highest risk occupations are in manufacturing, farming, construction, the military, and the music industry.
The last thing you want is to spend your entire working life accumulating hearing loss that will keep you from taking pleasure in your retirement. Check with your company about its hearing protection plan, and if they don’t have one, contact your local hearing specialist for custom solutions.
4. Taking drugs and smoking
Smoking interferes with blood flow, on top of other things, which may enhance your risk of developing hearing loss—if you really required another reason to quit. 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. Consult with 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 above this limit, and any sound over 85 decibels can cause 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 mp3 players at maximum volume reach more than 100 decibels while rock shows reach more than 110. The solution is simple: turn down your iPod, wear earplugs at concerts, and reduce your length 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 balanced diet, and regular monitoring of glucose levels is crucial. And if you ride 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 straightforward lifestyle alterations can help you protect your hearing for life. Keep in mind: the modest hassle of wearing custom earplugs, driving with the windows up, or turning down your iPod are small compared to the substantial inconvenience of hearing loss later in life.
Ready to take your hearing health seriously? Give us a call today.