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 contemplate, 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 sounds of a Bluejay first thing in the morning, your quality of life is closely tied to your capability to hear—regardless of whether you realize it or not. And if you wait until after you’ve lost your hearing to come to this recognition, you’re going to spend quite a bit of time and effort trying to get it back.
So how can you retain 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 get older. Combined 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 prevent the process of getting older or modify your genetics, you can protect against noise-induced hearing loss from the other sources outlined below. And keep in mind that age-related hearing loss is considerably more challenging to treat if aggravated by avoidable damage.
Persistent exposure to sound levels above 85 decibels can lead to permanent hearing loss, which is not-so-good news if you happen to drive a convertible. New research shows that driving a convertible with the top down at excessive speeds generates an average sound volume level of 90 decibels. Motorcyclists face even louder sounds and those who take the subway are at risk as well.
So does everyone either have to give up travel or live with permanent earplugs? Not quite, but you should look for ways to limit your collective noise exposure during travel. If you own a convertible, roll up your car windows and drive a little slower; if you own a motorcycle, wear a helmet and consider earplugs; and if you use the subway, think about buying noise-canceling headphones.
3. Going to work
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), 22 million workers in the US are subjected to potentially harmful 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. Speak with your manager about its hearing protection plan, and if they don’t have one, check with your local hearing specialist for customized solutions.
4. Taking drugs and smoking
Smoking interferes with blood flow, among other things, which could enhance 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: avoid taking ototoxic drugs or medications unless completely necessary. Speak 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 yield decibel levels just above this threshold, and anything over 85 decibels can cause hearing loss. If the limit 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 maximum volume get to more than 100 decibels while rock concerts reach more than 110. The solution is straight forward: turn down your iPod, wear earplugs at live shows, and limit your time of exposure to the music.
6. Getting sick or injured
Specific ailments, 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 frequent tracking of glucose levels is crucial. And if you drive a motorcycle, using a helmet will help protect against traumatic head injuries.
Talk to Your Hearing Specialist
While there are several ways to lose your hearing, a few easy lifestyle alterations can help you conserve your hearing for life. Remember: the mild hassle of wearing custom earplugs, driving with the windows up, or turning down your iPod are slight in comparison to the substantial inconvenience of hearing loss later in life.
Ready to take your hearing health seriously? Give us a call today.