Think of your hearing as one of your most important assets. What are you going to do to keep it safe? You probably realize that most people experience some hearing loss with age. What you might not know is that it has very little to do with getting older. This type of hearing loss occurs because of the damage people do to their ears over time. Looking for practical ways to protect your hearing right now will make all the difference later to prevent hearing decline.
The fact is there might still a slight decline in your hearing when you get older, but taking steps now can reduce the extent of the damage and reduce your risk of significant hearing loss. Consider six things you can do right now to avoid requiring hearing aids in 10 years.
1. Learn More About Hearing Loss
There are two primary reasons you might lose your hearing:
Hearing is a very mechanical process. It starts when sound moves into the outer ears as a wave of vibrations. The ear drum amplifies that wave as it moves down the canal where it hits three small bones causing them to vibrate. Those bones, in turn, transmit the vibrations to the inner ear, or cochlea. Inside the cochlea are tiny hairs that move as the vibrations hit them.
It’s the hair cells that are typically the root of most age-related hearing problems. Extreme noise can damage the cells even though they naturally lose some viability over the years. It’s the combination of normal aging and chronic loud sound that hurts you, though.
Your goal is to come up with ways to keep the hair cells healthy and that starts with reducing their exposure to loud sounds. It’s a combination of environmental damage and natural aging is what leads to hearing aids for many people. Since you can’t do anything about aging, focus on what you can control – environmental damage.
2. Stop Putting on Those Headphones
One practical approach is to protect the delicate inner ear is by losing the headphones so many people love to wear when listening to music or watching TV. Headphones isolated the sound, so it enters the ear in a stronger wave. The mechanisms of the ear don’t change just because the sound is loud. When a strong wave hits the ear canal, the eardrum still amplifies it and the tiny bones still vibrate. The sound is now a violent wave as it hits the hair cells causing damage along the way. That happens every single time you put on those headphones no matter what the volume.
3. Figure out the Noise Factor
Even once you lose the headphones, your ears will still experience different dangerous sound levels. Everything from the local band to your lawn mower will impact your hearing in the future. Learn to filter out the sounds are causing hearing damage.
NHS lists the sound level of normal conversation at about 60 dB, so use that as a guide. Compare it, for example, to the sound of your lawnmower, which is closer to 85 dB, and you’ll start to get the idea. Going to see your favorite band exposes you to about 120 dB.
- Typically, noise that you experience weekly over 105 dB causes damage.
- Lower daily noise levels at 80 to 90db also cause damage
If you play your music on the loud setting each day, the level is about 112 dB, so think about turning it down.
4. Cut Back on Your Noise Exposure
Find ways to avoid loud noises. For instance, on you get used to listening to music at lower volume levels; it will seem completely normal to you. You’ll be surprised on easily the ears can adjust, especially in a tight space like the car. Ask others to respect your need for lower noise levels, too.
5. Get Some Good Hearing Protection
Making smart hearing choices doesn’t mean you have to miss out on your a concert or make major lifestyle changes to avoid the sound of a jackhammer. Plan ahead and wear ear protection when you must. A simple and inexpensive pair of ear plugs makes that concert much safer and if you decide to mow the lawn, put on a pair of sound-dampening headphones. Work with your employer to ensure ear protection is available on the job, too.
6. Schedule Regular Ear Checkups
A good ear health strategy will start with a baseline hearing test. From there, all you need is an ear checkup at least once a year. You will want to talk to your healthcare provider about scheduling a couple of hearing tests as you grow older to monitor your hearing ability.
Today, most healthcare plans focus on wellness, so extend that thinking to your ear health, as well. The sooner you start factoring in ear health, the better your hearing will be later in life.