Growing up into adulthood, you likely began to associate hearing loss with aging. You probably had older adults around you struggling to understand words or wearing hearing aids.
But just like 30 or 60 only seemed old to you until it fast approached, as you learn more about hearing loss, you find it has less to do with aging and much more to do with something else.
This is the one thing you should know: Admitting that you have hearing loss doesn’t make you old.
Hearing Loss Is an “Any Age Problem”
By the age of 12, audiologists can already detect some hearing loss in 13% of cases. You’ll agree, this isn’t because 12-year-olds are “old.” Teen hearing loss has gone up 33% in the past 30 years.
What’s at work here?
2% of 45 – 55-year-olds and 8% of 55 – 64 year-olds already have disabling hearing loss.
It’s not an aging problem. What you may think of as age-related hearing loss is 100% preventable. And you have the power to significantly reduce the progression of your hearing loss.
Age-related hearing loss, known medically as sensorineural hearing loss, is most commonly caused by noise.
For generations hearing loss was thought to be inevitable as you age. But today, science knows more about how to protect your hearing and even restore it.
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How Noise Causes Hearing Loss
The first step to protecting your hearing is understanding how something as “harmless” as noise causes hearing loss.
Sound is made up of waves. These waves travel into your ear canal. They move down past your eardrum into your inner ear.
Here, tiny hair cells in your inner ear vibrate. Which hair cells vibrate, and how fast or frequently they vibrate, become a neurological code. Your brain can translate this code into words, rushing water, a car horn, a cry or whatever else you may hear.
But when the inner ear is exposed to sounds that are too loud, these hair cells vibrate too quickly. The sound shakes them to death.
Without them, you can’t hear.
Why Noise-Induced Hearing Loss is Irreversible
If you cut your hand, the wound heals. But when you damage these tiny hair cells, they cannot heal, and they cannot grow back. The more often you’re exposed to loud sounds, the more tiny hair cells you lose.
As you do, hearing loss progresses.
Common Noises that Cause Hearing Damage
Many people are shocked to find out that everyday activities can cause hearing loss. You may not think twice about:
- Going to a concert/play/movies
- Wearing earbuds/head phones
- Turning the car stereo way up
- Mowing the lawn
- Using farm equipment
- Riding a motorcycle/snowmobile
- Driving on a busy highway with the windows or top down
- Working in a factory or other loud profession
- Being a musician
You don’t have to give up these activities. Fortunately, you can take proactive steps to reduce noise-induced hearing loss.
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How to Keep Hearing Loss From Making You “Feel” Older
If you’re already suffering from hearing loss, admitting it doesn’t have to make you feel older. In fact, failing to acknowledge it can doom you to faster progression and complications that “will” make you feel a lot older in just a few years like:
- Increased Fall Risk
- Social Isolation
- More frequent trips to the ER
- Strained relationships
These are all significantly more common in people with untreated hearing loss.
Prevent Further Hearing Damage
Start by learning how to prevent hearing loss.
- Get a sound meter app on your smartphone. Find out how loud things really are.
- Learn about dangerous volumes. Over 85 dB (decibels) can cause permanent hearing loss in 8 hours. 110 takes about 15 minutes to cause permanent hearing loss. 120 dB and above causes instant hearing loss. A gunshot is 140 to 170 dB.
- Know that If you’ve ever had trouble hearing temporarily after a concert, you already caused permanent damage to your hearing. It will become more pronounced over time.
- Wear earplugs and/or sound-dampening earmuffs when appropriate.
- Follow work hearing protection rules.
- Limit your exposure time to loud sounds.
- Avoid standing close to loudspeakers or turning speaker up at home.
- Get earbuds/headphones that have integrated volume control. They never go over 90 decibels. Most people would have to listen almost non-stop all day to cause permanent damage.
- High blood pressure, low blood oxygen, and some medications can make you more susceptible at lower volumes. To be safe, never listen on headphones at over 50%. Car speakers vary.
- Wear your hearing aid. Not wearing a hearing aid when you need them causes the brain to atrophy. It’s similar to your leg muscles. If you stop walking, it gets much harder to walk.
Get a Hearing Test
Are you procrastinating or are in denial? Stop it. You need to know so that you can be proactive to reduce further damage.
Talk to Your Doctor About Hearing Solutions
There are no “natural cures” for hearing impairment. If hearing loss is severe, it may be time to get a hearing aid.
Do a Cost-Benefit Analysis of Hearing Aids
Many people are either in denial about hearing loss. Or they decide to “tough it out.” They think hearing aids make them seem old. Or they think they cost too much.
But when they realize that hearing loss will get worse faster and can cause many health and relationship complications, it’s easy to see that the pros well outweigh the cons.
Talk to a hearing care professional today about getting a hearing test. And if hearing aids are recommended, don’t worry about “feeling old.” Hearing aids today are much sleeker and more sophisticated than you may think!