Growing up into adulthood, you likely started to associate hearing loss with aging. You probably had older adults around you struggling to comprehend words or wearing hearing aids.
When you’re young, getting old seems so far away but as time goes by you begin to recognize that hearing loss is about much more than aging.
Here is the one thing you should know: It doesn’t mean that you’re old just because you acknowledge you have hearing loss.
Hearing Loss is an “Any Age Problem”
By the age of 12, audiologists can already detect some hearing loss in 13% of cases. Clearly, you aren’t “old” when you’re 12. Teenage hearing loss has risen 33% in the past 30 years.
What’s at work here?
Debilitating hearing loss has already set in for 2% of people between the ages of 45 and 55 and 8% of people between 55 and 64.
It isn’t an aging issue. You can 100% prevent what is commonly considered “age related hearing loss”. And you have the ability to significantly decrease its advancement.
Noise exposure is the most prevalent cause of age associated or “sensorineural” hearing loss.
Hearing loss was, for decades, considered to be an unavoidable part of aging. But protecting and even restoring your hearing is well within the scope of modern science.
How Noise Leads to Hearing Loss
Recognizing how noise results in hearing loss is step one in protecting hearing.
Sound is made up of waves. These waves travel into your ear canal. They move down past your eardrum into your inner ear.
Here, small hair cells in your inner ear oscillate. The intensity and speed of these vibrations then encode a mental signal. Your brain is able to convert this code into words, running water, a car horn, a cry or anything else you might hear.
But when the inner ear receives sounds that are too intense, these hair cells oscillate too rapidly. The sound shakes them to death.
When these hairs die you can no longer hear.
Why Noise-Induced Hearing Loss is Irreversible
If you cut yourself, the wound heals. But when you impair these tiny hair cells, they cannot heal, and they never regenerate. The more often you’re subjected to loud sounds, the more tiny hair cells fail.
As they do, hearing loss progresses.
every day Noises That Damage Hearing
Most people don’t know that hearing loss can be caused by noise we hear every day. These things probably seem completely harmless:
- Turning the car stereo way up
- Going to a noisy workplace
- Putting the windows or top down on a busy highway
- Riding a snowmobile/motorcycle
- Mowing the lawn
- Using farm equipment
- Playing in a band
- Using head phones/earbuds
- Going to a movie/play/concert
You can keep on doing these things. Fortunately, you can take proactive steps to reduce noise-induced hearing loss.
How to be Certain That 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. 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:
- Social Isolation
- Increased Fall Risk
- More frequent trips to the ER
- Strained relationships
These are all substantially more common in those with neglected hearing loss.
Ways You Can Avoid Further Hearing Damage
Get started by knowing how to avoid hearing loss.
- Get a sound meter app on your smartphone. Learn how loud things actually are.
- Learn about harmful levels. Over 85 dB (decibels) can cause irreversible hearing loss in 8 hours. Irreversible hearing loss, at 110 dB, occurs in about 15 minutes. Immediate hearing loss occurs at 120dB or higher. A gunshot is between 140 to 170 dB.
- Realize that you’ve already triggered irreversible hearing damage every time you’ve had a hard time hearing right after a concert. The more often it occurs, the worse it will become.
- When it’s needed, use earplugs or earmuffs.
- Respect work hearing protection safeguards.
- If you need to be exposed to loud noises, limit the exposure time.
- Standing too close to loudspeakers is a bad idea in any setting.
- Get earbuds/headphones that have built in volume control. They have a 90 dB limit. Most people would have to listen almost continuously all day to trigger permanent damage.
- Even at lower levels, if you have low blood oxygen, high blood pressure, or are taking some common medication, you’re hearing may still be in danger. Always keep your headphones at 50% or less. Car speakers will vary and a volume meter app can 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 a lot like your leg muscles. If you let them go, it will be tough to get them back.
Make an Appointment to Have a Hearing Test
Are you procrastinating or in denial? Don’t do it. Be proactive about reducing further damage by acknowledging your situation.
Speak with Your Hearing Specialist About Hearing Solutions
Hearing impairment does not have any “natural cure”. If hearing loss is extreme, it might be time to invest in a hearing aid.
Do a Cost to Benefit Analysis of Investing in Hearing Aids
Many people are either in denial about hearing loss, or they choose to “just deal with”. They believe that hearing aids make them look old. Or they think that they cost too much.
But when they recognize that hearing loss will get worse faster and can cause many relationship and health complications, it’s easy to see that the pros well outweigh the cons.
Schedule a hearing test with a hearing professional. And you don’t have to be concerned that you appear old if you wind up needing hearing aids. Modern hearing aids are stylish and state-of-the-art pieces of modern technology.