As you got older, you probably started to associate hearing loss with getting old. Older adults around you were probably wearing hearing aids or having a difficult time hearing.
But just like 30 or 60 only seemed old to you until it started to catch up to you, as you learn more about hearing loss, you realize that it has less to do with the aging process and much more to do with something else.
You need to understand this one thing: It doesn’t make you old just because you acknowledge you have hearing loss.
Hearing Loss is an “Any Age Issue”
By 12 years old, audiologists can already see some hearing loss in 13% of cases. You’ll recognize, this isn’t because 12-year-olds are “old”. Teen hearing loss has gone up 33% in the last 30 years.
What’s at work here?
2% of 45 – 55-year-olds and 8% of 55 – 64 year-olds already suffer from debilitating hearing loss.
Aging isn’t the issue. What you probably think of as age-related hearing loss is 100% preventable. And limiting its progression is well within your ability.
Noise exposure is the most prevalent cause of age related or “sensorineural” hearing loss.
Hearing loss was, for years, assumed to be an inescapable part of aging. But protecting and even restoring your hearing is well within the scope of modern science.
How Hearing Loss is Caused by Noise
Learning how noise causes hearing loss is the first step in protecting hearing.
Sound is composed of waves. These waves travel into your ear canal. They reach your inner ear after going past your eardrum.
In your inner ear are tiny hair cells that vibrate when sound impacts them. The speed and intensity of these vibrations then encode a mental signal. Your brain can convert this code into words, rushing water, a car horn, a cry or anything else you might hear.
But these hairs can oscillate with too much intensity when the inner ear gets sound that is too loud. The sound shakes them to death.
Without them, you can’t hear.
Noise-Activated Hearing Loss is Permanent, Here’s Why
Wounds such as cuts or broken bones heal. But these little hair cells won’t heal or grow back. Over time, as you expose your ears to loud noise, more and more of these hairs die.
As they do, hearing loss worsens.
Hearing Damage Can be Caused by These Common Noises
Many people are surprised to learn that daily activities can result in hearing loss. You might not think twice about:
- Turning the car stereo way up
- Mowing the lawn
- Putting the windows or top down on a busy highway
- Using farm equipment
- Going to a movie/play/concert
- Riding a snowmobile/motorcycle
- Being a musician
- Wearing head phones/earbuds
- Working in a factory or other loud profession
You don’t have to quit these activities. Fortunately, you can take protective measures to limit noise-induced hearing loss.
How to Keep Hearing Loss From Making You “Feel” Old
If you’re already suffering from loss of hearing, admitting it doesn’t need to make you feel old. Actually, you will feel older a lot sooner if you fail to acknowledge your hearing loss because of complications like:
- Strained relationships
- Increased Fall Risk
- More frequent trips to the ER
- Social Isolation
For individuals with untreated hearing loss these are much more common.
Reduce Further Hearing Injury
Understanding how to avoid hearing loss is the starting point.
- So that you can find out how loud things really are, get a sound meter app.
- Know about harmful levels. Over 85 dB (decibels) can cause irreversible hearing loss in 8 hours. Irreversible hearing loss, at 110 dB, happens in over 15 minutes. Immediate hearing loss occurs at 120dB or higher. A gunshot is 140 to 170 dB.
- Realize that you’ve already caused irreversible hearing damage each time you’ve had a hard time hearing right after a concert. It will become more pronounced as time passes.
- Use earplugs and/or sound-dampening earmuffs when appropriate.
- Implement work hearing protection rules.
- Limit your exposure time to loud noises.
- Standing too close to loudspeakers is a poor idea in any situation.
- Some headphones and earbuds have on-board volume control for a less dangerous listening experience. They have a 90 dB upper limit. Most people would need to listen nearly continuously all day to trigger irreversible damage.
- Some medications, low blood oxygen, and even high blood pressure can make you more vulnerable at lower volumes. Always keep your headphones at 50% or less. Car speakers vary.
- If you have a hearing aid, wear it. The brain will begin to atrophy if you don’t use your hearing aid when you need it. It’s similar to your leg muscles. If you stop using them, it will be hard to begin again.
Schedule an Appointment to Have a Hearing Exam
Are you in denial or simply putting things off? Don’t do it. Be proactive about reducing further harm by recognizing your circumstance.
Talk to Your Hearing Specialist About Hearing Loss Solutions
Hearing impairment does not have any “natural cure”. It may be time to invest in a hearing aid if your hearing loss is extreme.
Compare The Cost of Buying Hearing Aids to The Advantages
Lots of people who do acknowledge their hearing loss just decide to deal with it. They don’t want people to think they are old because they have hearing aids. Or they are concerned that they won’t be able to afford them.
But when they realize that hearing loss will get worse faster and can cause numerous relationship and health challenges, it’s easy to see that the pros well surpass the cons.
Consult a hearing care specialist today about having a hearing exam. And if hearing aids are advised, don’t worry about “feeling old”. Hearing aids today are significantly sleeker and more advanced than you may believe!