Scientists refer gradual loss of hearing to as presbycusis, which is a common condition linked to aging. Research claim that one in three adults aged 60 years and above have hearing problems. Unfortunately, most people aren’t aware of the loss because the change is gradual. Most often, hearing loss affects the ability to hear high-pitched noises such as a beeping microwave or phone ringing. In most cases, presbycusis doesn’t affect the ability to hear low-pitch noises.
Some age-related changes may not be preventable. But did you know hearing loss isn’t one of them? You may think that hearing loss is inevitable as you age. But the truth is that gradual hearing loss is a common condition among people aged 65 and above. However, there are actions that we can take while we are young to alleviate its severity.
— Facts About Age-Related Hearing Loss —
The NIH estimates one-third of the U.S. citizens aged 65 years and above have hearing problems. Half of the adults aged 75 years and above can’t hear normal sounds. Research has found that 40% of Americans with hearing loss are 65 or older.
Sound waves travel through the cochlea and can cause vibration to the eardrum when they reach the inner structure of the ear. There are thousands of tiny hairs attached to the cochlea to help translate these vibrations into signals and transmit them to the brain. The medical term for age-related hearing loss is presbycusis, and it can occur as a result of free radical damage to the tissues that act as sound amplifies and loss of the tiny hair cells that are found in the cochlea.
The buildup of earwax in the inner ear can prevent conduction of sound waves and block the ear canal and result in hearing loss. But hearing caused by wax buildup can be restored through earwax removal. Hearing loss can start at any age, so prevention measures should be made a lifelong habit. Below are a few proven ways to prevent hearing loss as we age.
Avoid Too Much Noise
People of all ages can lose their hearing ability at a quicker rate and younger ages due to environmental factors, such as too much noise. However, this can be alleviated by reducing the noise around you, which can be through turning down the volume on your car radio, television, or stereo.
High volume when using personal devices on earbuds or headphones can cause hearing loss even at a tender age. Experts recommend not turning the volume past 50% when listening to music using headphones. Exceeding the volume past 80% is never encouraged even for a short time.
Noisy equipment and activities such as power tools, jet skis, lawnmowers, leaf blowers, and snowmobiling can cause hearing loss. So, always wear ear protection when working in an environment exposed to prolonged, loud noises. One way to prevent early hearing loss as we age is wearing custom-made or pre-formed earplugs when involved in activities that loud noises are common.
Wear Hearing Protection
It is worth wearing hearing protection when working around loud sounds for a prolonged duration. Earmuffs are designed to fit over your ears and can block loud noise by about 15 to 30 decibels. However, earmuffs must fit tightly over your ears to block loud sounds.
Earmuffs can be worn together with earplugs for greater protection. The world’s noise level continues to rise, so everyone should consider investing in foam plugs or ear protection headphones. However, you should make sure they fit your ear tightly. Research claims that protection is key to preventing age-related hearing loss.
Custom-fitted earplugs are highly recommended for performers and musicians due to their unique design. Audiologists are trained to take an impression of each of your ears and design plugs that are secure and fit for your ears. Plugs are fitted with filters that preserve sound quality for musicians while reducing frequencies. Although non-customized ear protection headphones can work well, too, experts suggest consulting an ear expert to ensure the plug is an appropriate fit.
Earplugs are made of rubber or foam and are designed to fit in the ear canal to block loud sounds by about 15 to 30 decibels. Earplugs are available at a store near you, but you can still design a custom-made earplug that fits your ears. High-quality earplugs can lower noise levels across all frequencies and are an ideal choice for musicians who would want to make sound around them undistorted and quieter.
Schedule Regular Hearing Tests
It is advisable to schedule an appointment with otolaryngology when working around a noisy environment for an extended period. Other scenarios when it may be necessary to visit an ear specialist is when you hear ringing in your ears or have trouble hearing conversations.
A person with hearing loss can avoid further damages by steering clear of noisy environments. A severe hearing problem may make it necessary to seek a hearing or other treatments. But be sure to consult an ear specialist if a sudden change to your hearing ability occurs. A hearing problem could be a symptom for other severe medical issues.
Take Your Hearing Medication with Caution
Research has found that over 200 drugs, including cancer-fighting medications and antibiotics, can impair your hearing. Even aspirin doses have been linked to hearing loss. So, anytime you take a hearing loss medication, check with an ear specialist for advice on whether it can impact your hearing or not.
If you have to take a drug that can impair your hearing, be sure to check your balance and hearing before and during treatment. Also, improper treatment of conditions such as atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, circulation illnesses, and diabetes can lead to hearing loss.
The inner parts of the ear, including the eardrum and cochlea, are highly sensitive so any ear damage could affect your hearing. Also, certain types of diuretics can result in hearing loss. Research claims that hearing loss is partially genetic, so it is advisable to consult a doctor if anyone in your family has hearing problems.
Wax buildup can muffle the sound. However, one mistake people often make is using a cotton swab to clean ears as it can push wax deeper into the ear. Experts recommend softening wax and washing it out with an at-home irrigation kit before using it on your ears.
You may need to visit an ear expert if the wax gets compacted in your ear. Sticking a cotton swab or using any other object to scratch your ears or remove wax can impair your hearing ability. If earwax is affecting your hearing, consult an ear specialist on the best way to remove it. Experts recommend using nostrils to blow your nose gently.
It is also advisable to frequently yawn and swallow when the plane is landing. Also, a person with a sinus infection, flu, or cold should consider using a nasal spray or take a decongestant a few hours or right before landing.
Research shows that tobacco increases the risk of hearing loss. So, an impaired hearing could indicate it is time to quit smoking. Non-smokers should as well avoid breathing secondhand smoke as it can impact their hearing ability too.
Limit Sound Around You
Some sounds such as the jackhammer or an ambulance siren are unavoidable, especially when working in a busy street. However, it is advisable to limit the time you are around a noisy environment. Noise-induced hearing loss can be as a result of working in a noisy environment for so long.
Today’s laptop and smartphone culture has made earbuds prevalent. If a smartphone or laptop is used at high volume, it can cause more damage than Walksmans and boom boxes did. The close an earbud gets to the ear, the tighter and louder its gets, increasing the levels of the sound. It is no secret that high levels of sound increase the risk of hearing loss.
Age-related hearing loss isn’t always preventable. But hearing loss caused by exposure to noise is 100 per cent preventable. Firecracker conversations can be up to 120 decibels while heavy traffic and normal conversation can range between 45 to 85 decibels.
Any noise above 85 decibels can cause severe damage to inner cells that transmit sound into signals. The best way to prevent noise-induced hearing loss is never to listen to music with earbuds or headphones and staying away from loud noise. Wearing ear protection can also reduce noise exposure when working in a noisy environment.
Any symptoms of ear ringing, fullness, or pain could indicate it is time to visit an ear expert. Sudden change in hearing ability may also call for immediate medical checkup. Deafness or hearing loss can have dire effects on social well-being. But knowing the cause of hearing loss and practicing preventative measures can help preserve your hearing ability.
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