The ironic part of hearing loss is that we don’t seem to start appreciating our favorite sounds until after we’ve lost the capacity to clearly hear them. We don’t pause to think about, for example, how much we appreciate a good conversation with a friend until we have to incessantly 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 directly connected to your capability to hear—whether you recognize 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 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 steadily occurs as we grow old. Together with presbycusis, there is also some evidence suggesting 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 stop the process of getting older or adjust your genes, you can protect against noise-induced hearing loss from the other causes illustrated below. And keep in mind that age-related hearing loss is much more complicated to treat if worsened by avoidable damage.
Consistent exposure to sound levels above 85 decibels can result in permanent hearing loss, which is bad news if you happen to drive a convertible. New research shows that driving a convertible with the top down at excessive speeds produces an average sound volume level of 90 decibels. Motorcyclists face even higher 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 certainly 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 ride a motorcycle, wear a helmet and think about earplugs; and if you use the subway, think about buying noise-canceling headsets.
3. Going to work
As stated by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), 22 million workers in the US are exposed to potentially harmful noise levels on the job. The highest risk professions are in manufacturing, farming, construction, the military, and the music industry.
The last thing you need is to spend your entire working life amassing hearing loss that will prevent you from taking pleasure in your retirement. Have a talk with your supervisor about its hearing protection plan, and if they do not have one, talk to your local hearing specialist for customized solutions.
4. Taking drugs and smoking
Smoking interferes with blood flow, on top of other things, which could enhance your risk of developing hearing loss—if you really required another reason to quit. 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: try to avoid using ototoxic drugs or medications unless completely 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 produce decibel levels just above this threshold, and any sound 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 mp3 players at max volume get to more than 100 decibels while rock concerts reach more than 110. The solution is straightforward: turn down your iPod, wear earplugs at concerts, and minimize your length of exposure to the music.
6. Getting sick or injured
Some disorders, such as diabetes, along with any traumatic head injuries, places you at greater risk of developing hearing loss. If you have diabetes, regular exercise, a healthy diet, and continual monitoring of glucose levels is vital. And if you drive a motorcycle, using a helmet will help protect against traumatic head injuries.
Talk to Your Hearing Specialist
Although there are numerous ways to lose your hearing, a few basic lifestyle adjustments can help you maintain your hearing for life. Keep in mind: the small 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.