As you got older, you probably began to connect hearing loss with getting old. Older adults in your life were probably wearing hearing aids or having a difficult time hearing.
In your youth, getting old seems so distant but as time passes you begin to realize that hearing loss is about much more than aging.
This is the one thing you should understand: Acknowledging that you have hearing loss doesn’t mean that you’re old.
Hearing Loss is a Condition That Can Take Place at Any Age
By 12 years old, audiologists can already identify some hearing loss in 13% of cases. You’ll agree, this isn’t because a 12 year old is “old”. Teen hearing loss has increased 33% in the past 30 years.
What’s the cause of this?
2% of 45 – 55-year-olds and 8% of 55 – 64 year-olds already have debilitating hearing loss.
Aging isn’t the problem. What you probably think of as age-related hearing loss is 100% avoidable. And decreasing its development is well within your power.
Noise exposure is the most prevalent cause of age related or “sensorineural” hearing loss.
For generations hearing loss was thought to be inevitable as you age. But today, science knows more about how to safeguard your hearing and even restore it.
How Noise Causes Hearing Loss
Understanding how noise results in hearing loss is step one in protecting hearing.
Waves are what sound is made of. The canal of your ear receives these waves. They move past your eardrum into your inner ear.
Here, little hair cells in your inner ear vibrate. The intensity and speed of these vibrations then encode a mental signal. Your brain can translate this code into words, rushing water, a car horn, a cry or anything else you might hear.
But when the inner ear receives sounds that are too loud, these hair cells oscillate too fast. This level of sound destroys these hairs and they will eventually stop working.
When these hairs are gone you won’t be able to hear.
Noise-Activated Hearing Loss is Permanent, Here’s Why
If you cut yourself, the wound heals. But these tiny hair cells don’t grow back or heal. Over time, as you expose your ears to loud noise, more and more of these hairs die.
As they do, hearing loss progresses.
Common Noises That Damage Hearing
Many people are shocked to learn that common activities can lead to hearing loss. These things may seem completely harmless:
- Driving on a busy highway with the windows or top down
- Lawn mowing
- Being a musician
- Using head phones/earbuds
- Using farm equipment
- Turning the car stereo way up
- Riding a snowmobile/motorcycle
- Going to a concert/play/movies
- Going to a noisy workplace
You can keep doing these things. Luckily, you can reduce noise induced hearing loss by taking some preventative measures.
How to Make Sure You Don’t “Feel” Older When You Have Hearing Loss
If you’re already suffering from loss of hearing, acknowledging it doesn’t need to make you feel old. In fact, failing to acknowledge it can doom you to faster advancement and complications that “will” make you feel much older in only a few years like:
- Social Isolation
- Strained relationships
- Increased Fall Risk
- More frequent trips to the ER
For people with untreated hearing loss these are substantially more prevalent.
Ways You Can Avoid Further Hearing Problems
Start by understanding how to avoid hearing loss.
- Get a sound meter app on your phone. Discover how loud things really are.
- Find out when volumes get dangerous. Above 85 dB (decibels) can cause permanent hearing loss in 8 hours. 110 dB takes around 15 minutes to cause lasting hearing loss. 120 dB and over brings about instant hearing loss. A gunshot is between 140 to 170 dB.
- Realize that you’ve already triggered irreversible hearing damage each time you’ve had a hard time hearing right after going to a concert. It will become more obvious over time.
- When it’s needed, use earplugs or earmuffs.
- When it comes to hearing protection, implement any safeguards that apply to your situation.
- Limit your exposure time to loud noises.
- Standing too close to loudspeakers is a poor idea in any setting.
- Some headphones and earbuds have on-board volume control for a less dangerous listening experience. They have a 90 dB limit. At that level, even constant, all day listening wouldn’t cause hearing damage for most individuals.
- 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 hearing aids when you require them results in brain atrophy. It’s similar to your leg muscles. If you let them go, it will be hard to get them back.
Make an Appointment to Have a Hearing Exam
Are you in denial or just procrastinating? Don’t do it. Be active about reducing further damage by acknowledging your situation.
Talk to Your Hearing Specialist About Hearing Solutions
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 decide to deal with it. They think hearing aids make them look old. Or they are afraid that they won’t be able to afford them.
It’s easy to see, however, that when the negative effect on health and relationships will cost more over time.
Schedule a hearing test with a hearing specialist. And if hearing aids are suggested, don’t worry about “feeling old”. Hearing aids nowadays are significantly sleeker and more sophisticated than you may believe!