The strange part of hearing loss is that we don’t seem to start appreciating our favorite sounds until after we’ve lost the capability to clearly hear them. We don’t pause to contemplate, for example, how much we enjoy a good conversation with a close friend until we have to persistently ask them to repeat themselves.
Whether it’s your favorite Mozart album or the songs of a Bluejay first thing in the morning, your total well being is closely connected to your ability to hear—whether you recognize it or not. And if you wait until after you’ve lost your hearing to come to this understanding, you’re going to expend a tremendous amount of time and effort working 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 progressively takes place as we grow older. Along with presbycusis, there is also some evidence suggesting that genetics plays a role, and that some of us are more prone to hearing loss than others.
While there’s not much you can do to avoid the aging process or tweak your genes, you can avoid 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 exacerbated by preventable damage.
Continuous direct exposure to sound volumes above 85 decibels can cause permanent hearing loss, which is not-so-good news if you happen to own a convertible. New research shows that driving a convertible with the top down at high speeds yields an average sound level of 90 decibels. Motorcyclists face even louder sounds and those who use the subway are at risk as well.
So does everybody either have to give up travel or live with permanent earplugs? Not exactly, but you should look for ways to reduce your cumulative noise exposure during travel. If you drive a convertible, roll up your windows and drive a little slower; if you own a motorcycle, wear a helmet and think about earplugs; and if you ride the subway, give some thought to buying 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 volumes at work. The highest risk professions are in manufacturing, farming, construction, the military, and the music industry.
The last thing you want is to spend your entire work life amassing hearing loss that will prevent you from enjoying your retirement. Consult your employer about its hearing protection plan, and if they don’t have one, consult your local hearing specialist for personalized 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 needed another reason to quit. Antibiotics, strong pain medications, and a significant number of other drugs are “ototoxic,” or damaging to the cells of hearing. In fact, there are more than 200 known ototoxic medications.
The bottom line: try to avoid consuming 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 activities generate decibel levels just over this threshold, 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 music players at full volume get to more than 100 decibels while rock concerts reach more than 110. The solution is simple: turn down your iPod, wear earplugs at concerts, and limit your exposure time to the music.
6. Getting sick or injured
Certain ailments, such as diabetes, along 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 consistent monitoring of blood sugar levels is critical. And if you ride a motorcycle, using a helmet will help prevent traumatic head injuries.
Talk to Your Hearing Specialist
While there are many ways to lose your hearing, a few easy lifestyle modifications can help you preserve your hearing for life. Keep in mind: the mild hassle of wearing custom earplugs, driving with the windows up, or turning down your iPod are small in comparison to the substantial inconvenience of hearing loss later in life.
Ready to take your hearing health seriously? Give us a call today.