We often think of hearing loss as an inevitable part of aging, but is this necessarily true? Our hearing is affected in the future by how we treat it today. This is why our hearing is one of the things we can actually protect if we are careful, so that we do not have to deal with the woes of hearing loss as we age.
Presbycusis is the medical term given to hearing loss that occurs due to aging, and it affects 1 in 3 older adults in America (aged 64-74). Although presbycusis happens with age, its roots take hold a lot earlier in life.
Our ears are delicate organs that contain tiny bones and delicate hair follicles that transmit sound signals to the brain. With age, these hair follicles deteriorate and cause hearing loss. Damage to hearing may also occur due to other reasons, such as extended exposure to unsafe levels of sound.
Hearing loss also affects our general health, increasing the risk of fatal diseases such as cardiovascular disease and stroke. Dementia, depression, anxiety, and diabetes are also conditions that are linked to hearing loss. When it comes to maintaining hearing health, prevention is always the best option, since there IS no cure for hearing loss!
As youngsters, we often enjoy the loud thumping noises of blaring music and loud sporting events. We may enjoy a loud football game or cheer our lungs out during music concerts. Others enjoy loud recreational activities such as water sports, firing at shooting ranges, and carpentry. All of these take a toll on our hearing health.
Any sound level exceeding 85dB is considered to be unsafe for human hearing. More often than not, we expose ourselves to preventable levels of noise that far exceed these safe sound limits. When we blast the volume on our personal audio device or mow the lawn without hearing protection, we are putting our ears at risk of sustaining hearing damage. Hearing loss is also faced by those who work in excessively loud work environments. This ranges from anywhere between the mining and construction industry, to combat veterans, to musicians.
As a general rule, the best way to tell whether the volume or noise level at any given place is too loud is to see whether you need to raise your voice in order to be heard. If you have to struggle to hear each other over the loud television or music, you need to turn down the volume to prevent hearing loss over time.
The best way to protect your hearing is to carry hearing protective gear along with you to use before exposing yourself to loud noises. This means using a pair of earplugs or earmuffs to protect your hearing from damage before attending concerts or engaging in noisy chores.
If you enjoy music, purchase a pair of noise-cancelling headphones that can be worn over the ears so that you can focus only on the music and tune out background noise without having to increase the volume.
Habits such as smoking and alcohol consumption also increase the likelihood of having presbycusis later in life. This may be a good reason to limit your alcohol or cigarette consumption or eliminate it altogether.
Some medications are also known to cause hearing loss, especially ototoxic ones. Even the innocent aspirin is a known culprit, as are antidepressants, some antibiotics, some types of heart medication, and even certain analgesics. If you feel a sudden onset of hearing loss after starting a new medication, talk to your doctor about changing your medication to prevent permanent hearing damage.
We live in a chaotic, busy world where we often forget to take care of ourselves. Take some time out to keep your mind and body fit. Consume a nutritious diet that is rich in nutrients such as Zinc, Magensium, Iron, and Phosphorous. Eat lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, and whole grains. Remember to include a 30 minute exercise routine each day, be it a simple walk around the park or a yoga routine. Get restful sleep by relaxing your body and mind through meditation, deep breathing, and relaxation exercises.
Hearing loss is a gradual process that can take years to develop. Early diagnosis provides the best prognosis and treatment methods. If you suspect that you may have hearing damage, get your hearing examined by a hearing care professional. Encourage loved ones to do the same so that they too can avoid the negative consequences of hearing loss.
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