Growing up into adulthood, you likely started to connect hearing loss with getting old. Older adults in your life were probably wearing hearing aids or struggling to hear.
In your youth, getting old seems so distant but as time passes you begin to realize that hearing loss is about a lot more than aging.
Here is the one thing you should understand: It doesn’t mean that you’re old just because you acknowledge you have hearing loss.
Hearing Loss is a Condition That Can Happen at Any Age
By 12 years old, audiologists can already detect some hearing loss in 13% of cases. You’ll agree, this isn’t because 12-year-olds are “old”. Teenage hearing loss has gone up 33% in the past 30 years.
What’s happening here?
Debilitating hearing loss has already set in for 2% of individuals between the ages of 45 and 55 and 8% of people between the ages of 55 and 64.
It’s not an aging problem. What you probably consider an age-related hearing loss is 100% preventable. And reducing its development is well within your power.
Noise exposure is the most common cause of age associated or “sensorineural” hearing loss.
For generations hearing loss was believed to be inescapable as you age. But protecting and even repairing your hearing is well within the grasp of modern science.
How Noise Causes Hearing Loss
Recognizing how noise causes hearing loss is step one in protecting hearing.
Waves are what sound is composed of. These waves go into your ear canal. They reach your inner ear after passing your eardrum.
Here, little hair cells in your inner ear vibrate. 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 these hairs can vibrate with too much intensity when the inner ear receives sound that is too loud. This level of sound damages these hairs and they will eventually stop working.
When these hairs are gone you can no longer hear.
Noise-Activated Hearing Loss is Permanent, Here’s Why
Wounds like cuts or broken bones will heal. But when you damage these tiny hair cells, they don’t heal, and they never grow back. Over time, as you subject your ears to loud noise, more and more of these hairs die.
As they do, hearing loss worsens.
Common Noises That Damage Hearing
Many people are surprised to learn that common activities can result in hearing loss. You might not think twice about:
- Riding a snowmobile/motorcycle
- Working in a factory or other loud profession
- Playing in a band
- Wearing head phones/earbuds
- Using farm equipment
- Putting the windows or top down on a busy highway
- Cranking up the car stereo
- Mowing the lawn
- Going to a concert/play/movies
You can keep doing these things. Thankfully, you can take protective measures to minimize noise-induced hearing loss.
How to Make Sure You Don’t “Feel” Older When You Have Hearing Loss
Admitting you have hearing loss, if you already suffer from it, doesn’t have to make you feel old. As a matter of fact, you will feel older much sooner if you fail to recognize your hearing loss due to complications like:
- Increased Fall Risk
- Social Isolation
- More frequent trips to the ER
- Strained relationships
These are all significantly more prevalent in individuals with neglected hearing loss.
Stop Further Hearing Damage
Begin by knowing how to prevent hearing loss.
- Get a sound meter app on your smartphone. Discover how loud things actually are.
- Learn about dangerous volumes. In under 8 hours, permanent hearing loss can be the result of volumes above 85dB. Irreversible hearing loss, at 110 dB, occurs in about 15 minutes. Instant hearing loss happens at 120dB or higher. A gunshot is 140 to 170 dB.
- Understand that you’ve already triggered irreversible hearing damage every time you’ve had a hard time hearing right after a concert. It will become more obvious with time.
- Use earplugs and/or sound-dampening earmuffs when necessary.
- Follow work hearing protection rules.
- Regulate your exposure time to loud sounds.
- Standing too close to loudspeakers is a poor idea in any situation.
- Some headphones and earbuds have built in volume control for a less dangerous listening experience. They never go over 90 dB. Most people would need to listen almost continuously all day to cause permanent damage.
- Even at lower volumes, if you have low blood oxygen, high blood pressure, or are taking some common medication, you’re hearing could still be in peril. To be safe, never listen on headphones at over 50%. Car speakers will vary and a volume meter app will help but regarding headphones, no louder than 50% is best policy.
- Wear your hearing aid. 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 difficult to begin again.
Make an Appointment to Have a Hearing Exam
Are you in denial or simply putting things off? Stop it. Be proactive about reducing further harm by acknowledging your situation.
Consult With Your Hearing Specialist About Solutions For Your Hearing Loss.
There are no “natural cures” for hearing loss. If hearing loss is severe, it could be time to get a hearing aid.
Do a Cost-Benefit Analysis of Investing in Hearing Aids
Lots of people who do acknowledge their hearing loss simply choose to cope with it. They don’t want people to think they are old because they wear hearing aids. Or they assume they cost too much.
But when they comprehend that hearing loss will get worse faster and can cause many health and relationship complications, it’s easy to see that the pros well outnumber the cons.
Speak with a hearing care professional right away about having a hearing test. And you don’t need to be concerned that you look old if you wind up needing hearing aids. Present day hearing aids are sophisticated and state-of-the-art pieces of modern technology.