When you were younger, you most likely considered hearing loss a result of 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.
Here is the one thing you should understand: Admitting that you have hearing loss doesn’t mean that you’re old.
Hearing Loss is an “Any Age Problem”
By 12 years old, audiologists can already identify some hearing loss in 13% of cases. You’ll agree, this isn’t because 12-year-olds are “old”. In the past 30 years, hearing loss among teenagers has risen by 33 %.
What’s happening here?
2% of 45 – 55-year-olds and 8% of 55 – 64 year-olds already have disabling hearing loss.
Aging isn’t the issue. You can 100% prevent what is commonly considered “age related hearing loss”. And you have the power to significantly minimize its development.
Age-related hearing loss, known medically sensorineural hearing loss, is most commonly a result of noise.
Hearing loss was, for decades, considered to be an inescapable part of aging. But safeguarding and even restoring your hearing is well within the scope of modern science.
How Noise Causes Hearing Loss
Understanding how noise results in hearing loss is the first step in protecting hearing.
Waves are what sound is composed of. The canal of your ear receives these waves. They reach your inner ear after passing your eardrum.
Inside your inner ear are tiny hair cells that vibrate when sound strikes them. Which hair cells vibrate, and how rapidly or frequently they vibrate, becomes a neurological code. Your brain is able to convert this code into words, running water, a car horn, a cry or anything else you may hear.
But these hairs can oscillate with too much force when the inner ear gets sound that is too intense. This level of sound damages these hairs and they will eventually fail.
Without them, you won’t be able to hear.
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss is Permanent, Here’s Why
If you cut yourself, the wound heals. But when you impair these little hair cells, they don’t heal, and they never regenerate. The more often you’re exposed to loud noise, the more tiny hair cells fail.
As they do, hearing loss progresses.
Hearing Damage Can be Caused by These Common Noises
Most people don’t know that hearing loss can be caused by every day noises. These things probably seem completely harmless:
- Turning up the car stereo
- Mowing the lawn
- Being a musician
- Driving on a busy highway with the windows or top down
- Using head phones/earbuds
- Riding a motorcycle/snowmobile
- Working in a factory or other loud profession
- Using farm equipment
- attending a concert/play/movies
You can continue to do these things. Luckily, you can take proactive actions to limit noise-induced hearing loss.
How to Keep Hearing Loss From Making You “Feel” Old
Acknowledging that you have hearing loss, if you’re already dealing with it, doesn’t need to make you feel old. Actually, you will feel older much sooner if you fail to acknowledge your hearing loss due to complications like:
- Social Isolation
- More frequent trips to the ER
- Increased Fall Risk
- Strained relationships
For individuals with neglected hearing loss these are much more prevalent.
Ways You Can Prevent Further Hearing Problems
Begin by learning how to avoid hearing loss.
- So that you can figure out how loud things really are, get a sound meter app.
- Find out when volumes become harmful. Above 85 dB (decibels) can result in irreversible hearing loss in 8 hours. Permanent hearing loss, at 110 dB, takes place in about 15 minutes. 120 dB and above brings about immediate hearing loss. A gunshot is between 140 to 170 dB.
- Know that If you’ve ever had trouble hearing temporarily after going to a concert, you’ve already caused permanent harm to your hearing. The more often it occurs, the worse it gets.
- Use earplugs and/or sound-dampening earmuffs when appropriate.
- When dealing with hearing protection, follow any safeguards that pertain to your situation.
- If you need to be exposed to loud sounds, limit your exposure time.
- Standing too close to loudspeakers is a bad idea in any situation.
- Some headphones and earbuds have built in volume control for a less dangerous listening experience. They have a 90 dB upper limit. Most people would need to listen almost non-stop all day to trigger irreversible damage.
- Even at lower volumes, if you are taking some common medications, have high blood pressure, or have low blood oxygen, you’re hearing may still be in peril. To be safe, never listen on headphones at over 50%. Car speakers will fluctuate and a volume meter app can help but when it comes to headphones, 50% or less is best policy.
- Use your hearing aid. Not wearing hearing aids when you need them leads to brain atrophy. It works the same as your muscles. If you stop utilizing them, it will be difficult to start again.
Have a Hearing Test
Are you in denial or simply procrastinating? Don’t do it. Be active about reducing further harm by recognizing your circumstance.
Speak with Your Hearing Professional About Hearing Loss Solutions
Hearing loss has no “natural cure”. It could be time to get a hearing aid if your hearing loss is severe.
Do a Cost to Benefit Comparison of Investing in Hearing Aids
Many people who do acknowledge their hearing loss simply decide to cope with it. They believe that hearing aids make them look old. Or they assume they cost too much.
But when they recognize that hearing loss will worsen faster and can cause many relationship and health challenges, it’s easy to recognize that the pros well outweigh the cons.
Talk to a hearing care professional right away about getting a hearing test. And if hearing aids are recommended, don’t worry about “feeling old”. Present day hearing aids are sophisticated and state-of-the-art pieces of modern technology.