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 contemplate, for instance, how much we appreciate a good conversation with a close friend until we have to incessantly 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 ability 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 devote a whole lot of time and effort trying to get it back.
So how can you sustain 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 develops as we grow older. Combined with presbycusis, there is also some evidence suggesting 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 halt the process of getting older or alter your genetics, you can protect against noise-induced hearing loss from the other causes described below. And keep in mind that age-related hearing loss is much more complicated to treat if worsened by avoidable damage.
Regular exposure to sound volumes above 85 decibels can bring about 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 excessive speeds produces 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 everybody either have to forego travel or live with permanent earplugs? Not exactly, but you should find ways to limit your collective noise exposure during travel. If you drive a convertible, roll up your windows and drive a little slower; if you own a motorcycle, put on a helmet and think about earplugs; and if you ride the subway, give some thought to purchasing noise-canceling headphones.
3. Going to work
As indicated by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), 22 million people in the US are exposed to potentially damaging noise levels on the job. The highest risk jobs are in manufacturing, farming, construction, the military, and the music industry.
The last thing you need is to spend your entire working life amassing hearing loss that will prevent you from taking pleasure in your retirement. Talk with your manager about its hearing protection plan, and if they don’t have one, talk with your local hearing specialist for customized solutions.
4. Taking drugs and smoking
Smoking impedes blood flow, among other things, which may increase your risk of developing hearing loss—if you really needed another reason to stop smoking. Antibiotics, potent 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. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions.
5. Listening to music
85 is turning out to be quite an inconvenient number. Many of our favorite hobbies produce decibel levels just above this limit, and anything 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 mp3 players at full volume reach more than 100 decibels while rock concerts reach more than 110. The solution is straight forward: turn down your iPod, wear earplugs at concerts, and reduce your time of exposure to the music.
6. Getting sick or injured
Specific conditions, such as diabetes, together 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
Although there are several ways to lose your hearing, a few simple lifestyle alterations can help you protect your hearing for life. Keep in mind: the modest inconvenience of wearing custom earplugs, driving with the windows up, or turning down your iPod are insignificant compared to the substantial inconvenience of hearing loss later in life.
Ready to take your hearing health seriously? Give us a call today.