The strange part of hearing loss is that we don’t seem to begin appreciating our favorite sounds until after we’ve lost the capacity to clearly hear them. We don’t stop to give thought to, for instance, how much we value a good conversation with a close friend until we have to recurrently ask them to repeat themselves.
Whether it’s your favorite Mozart record or the songs of a Bluejay first thing in the morning, your quality of life is directly connected 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 realization, you’re going to devote a great deal 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 slowly and gradually occurs as we get 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 process of getting older or adjust your genetics, you can protect against noise-induced hearing loss from the other sources illustrated below. And keep in mind that age-related hearing loss is significantly more complicated to treat if exacerbated by preventable damage.
Regular direct exposure to sound volumes above 85 decibels can result in permanent hearing loss, which is bad news if you happen to drive a convertible. New research suggests that driving a convertible with the top down at excessive speeds produces an average sound volume level of 90 decibels. Motorcyclists encounter even higher sounds and those who travel on the subway are at risk as well.
So does everybody either have to give up travel or live with permanent earplugs? Not quite, but you should certainly look for ways to reduce your cumulative 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 think about earplugs; and if you take the subway, give some thought to purchasing noise-canceling headphones.
3. Going to work
As stated by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), 22 million people in the US are subjected to potentially damaging noise volumes at work. The highest risk occupations are in manufacturing, farming, construction, the military, and the music industry.
The last thing you want is to spend your total working life accumulating hearing loss that will prevent you from making the most of your retirement. Consult your employer 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 stop smoking. Antibiotics, potent 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: avoid using ototoxic drugs or medications unless completely necessary. Talk to 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 generate decibel levels just over this threshold, 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 max 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 limit your length of exposure to the music.
6. Getting sick or injured
Certain disorders, such as diabetes, along with any traumatic head injuries, places you at a higher risk of developing hearing loss. If you have diabetes, regular exercise, a healthy diet, and continual monitoring of glucose levels is crucial. And if you drive a motorcycle, wearing 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 preserve your hearing for life. Remember: the mild inconvenience 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.