When you were younger, you most likely thought of hearing loss as a consequence of aging. Older adults around you were probably wearing hearing aids or having a difficult time hearing.
When you’re young, getting old seems so far away but as time goes by you begin to recognize that hearing loss is about far more than aging.
This is the one thing you should understand: It doesn’t mean that you’re old just because you admit you have hearing loss.
Hearing Loss is an “Any Age Problem”
In 13% of cases, audiologists can already notice hearing loss by the age of 12. Obviously, your not “old” when you’re 12. Teenage hearing loss has increased 33% in the past 30 years.
What’s happening here?
2% of 45 – 55-year-olds and 8% of 55 – 64 year-olds already suffer from disabling hearing loss.
Aging isn’t the problem. You can 100% prevent what is generally thought of as “age related hearing loss”. And reducing its development is well within your power.
Noise exposure is the most common cause of age related or “sensorineural” hearing loss.
Hearing loss was, for decades, thought to be an unavoidable part of aging. But protecting and even restoring your hearing is well within the scope of modern science.
How Noise Causes Hearing Loss
The first step to safeguarding your hearing is learning how something as “innocuous” as noise causes hearing loss.
Waves are what sound is composed of. These waves travel into your ear canal. They go down past your eardrum into your inner ear.
In your inner ear are small hair cells that oscillate when sound strikes them. Which hair cells oscillate, and how quickly or frequently they vibrate, becomes a signal in the brain. Your brain then translates this code into sound.
But when the inner ear receives sounds that are too intense, these hair cells vibrate too quickly. The sound shakes them to death.
When these hairs die you can no longer hear.
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss is Irreversible, Here’s Why
If you cut yourself, the wound heals. But when you damage these tiny hair cells, they don’t heal, and they never grow back. The more often you’re subjected to loud sounds, the more little hair cells die.
As they do, hearing loss progresses.
Common Noises That Cause Hearing Damage
Most people don’t realize that hearing loss can be caused by every day noises. These things may seem perfectly harmless:
- Using head phones/earbuds
- Going to a movie/play/concert
- Riding a motorcycle/snowmobile
- Lawn mowing
- Using farm equipment
- Going to a noisy workplace
- Putting the windows or top down on a busy highway
- Playing in a band
- Turning the car stereo way up
You don’t have to quit these things. Luckily, you can take proactive steps to reduce noise-induced hearing loss.
How to Make Sure You Don’t “Feel” Older When You Have Hearing Loss
If you’re already suffering from loss of hearing, admitting it doesn’t have to make you feel old. As a matter of fact, failing to acknowledge it can doom you to faster development and complications that “will” make you feel much older in just a few years like:
- Social Isolation
- Increased Fall Risk
- More frequent trips to the ER
- Strained relationships
For people with untreated hearing loss these are a lot more common.
Ways You Can Avoid Additional Hearing Problems
Learning how to avoid hearing loss is the initial step.
- In order to find out how loud things really are, download a sound meter app.
- Learn about dangerous levels. In under 8 hours, irreversible damage can be caused by volumes above 85dB. 110 dB takes about 15 minutes to trigger permanent hearing loss. 120 dB and over brings about instant hearing loss. 140 to 170 dB is the average volume of a gunshot.
- Recognize that If you’ve ever had trouble hearing temporarily after going to a concert, you’ve already generated permanent damage to your hearing. The more often it occurs, the worse it gets.
- Wear earplugs and/or sound-dampening earmuffs when appropriate.
- When dealing with hearing protection, adhere to any guidelines that pertain to your situation.
- Limit your exposure time to loud sounds.
- Standing too close to loudspeakers is a bad idea in any situation.
- Get earbuds/headphones that have integrated volume control. They have a 90 dB upper limit. At that volume, even nonstop, all day listening wouldn’t cause hearing damage for most people.
- High blood pressure, low blood oxygen, and some medications can make you more susceptible at lower levels. Always keep your headphones at 50% or less. Car speakers vary.
- Use your hearing aid. Not using hearing aids when you require them causes the brain to atrophy. It’s similar to your leg muscles. If you let them go, it will be tough to get them back.
Schedule an Appointment to Have a Hearing Exam
Are you in denial or simply putting things off? Don’t do it. You need to acknowledge your hearing loss so that you can be proactive to minimize further harm.
Talk to Your Hearing Specialist About Hearing Solutions
There are no “natural cures” for hearing impairment. If hearing loss is extreme, it may be time to invest in a hearing aid.
Do a Cost-Benefit Analysis of Investing in Hearing Aids
Many individuals who do recognize their hearing loss just decide to cope with it. They don’t want people to think they look old because they wear hearing aids. Or they are afraid that they won’t be able to afford them.
But when they recognize that hearing loss will get worse faster and can cause numerous relationship and health complications, it’s easy to recognize that the pros well outnumber the cons.
Schedule a hearing test with a hearing professional. And if hearing aids are recommended, don’t be concerned about “feeling old”. Hearing aids nowadays are significantly sleeker and more sophisticated than you may believe!