Growing up into adulthood, you likely began to connect hearing loss with aging. Older adults in your life were probably wearing hearing aids or having a difficult time hearing.
But just like 30 or 60 only seemed old to you until it fast approached, as you learn more about hearing loss, you realize that it has less to do with getting old and much more to do with something else.
This is the one thing you should understand: It doesn’t make you old just because you acknowledge you have hearing loss.
Hearing Loss is an “Any Age Issue”
By the age of 12, audiologists can already identify some hearing loss in 13% of cases. Obviously, you aren’t “old” when you’re 12. In the past 30 years, hearing loss in teenagers has increased by 33 %.
What’s the reason for this?
2% of 45 – 55-year-olds and 8% of 55 – 64 year-olds already have debilitating hearing loss.
Aging isn’t the problem. You can 100% prevent what is commonly thought of as “age related hearing loss”. And you have the power to significantly minimize its advancement.
Noise exposure is the typical cause of age related or “sensorineural” hearing loss.
Hearing loss was, for many years, considered to be an inescapable part of aging. But these days, science understands more about how to protect your hearing and even restore it.
How Hearing Loss is Triggered by Noise
Learning how noise results in hearing loss is step one in safeguarding hearing.
Sound is composed of waves. These waves travel into your ear canal. They move past your eardrum into your inner ear.
Inside your inner ear are small hair cells that oscillate when sound strikes them. What hair cells oscillate, and how rapidly or frequently they vibrate, becomes a neurological code. Your brain can translate this code into words, running 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 oscillate too quickly. The sound vibrates them to death.
Without them, you can’t hear.
Why Noise-Induced Hearing Loss is Irreversible
Wounds like cuts or broken bones will heal. But when you damage these tiny hair cells, they cannot heal, and they never regenerate. The more often you’re subjected to loud noise, the more little hair cells fail.
Hearing loss gets worse as they do.
Hearing Damage Can be Caused by These every day Noises
Many people are shocked to learn that every day activities can cause hearing loss. These things might seem perfectly harmless:
- Putting the windows or top down on a busy highway
- Working in a factory or other loud profession
- Mowing the lawn
- Being a musician
- Going to a concert/play/movies
- Using head phones/earbuds
- Riding a motorcycle/snowmobile
- Turning the car stereo way up
- Running farm equipment
You can keep on doing these things. Fortunately, you can take proactive actions to reduce noise-induced hearing loss.
How to be Certain That You Don’t “Feel” Older When You Have Hearing Loss
If you’re currently suffering from loss of hearing, acknowledging it doesn’t need to make you feel older. As a matter of fact, you will feel older much sooner if you fail to acknowledge your hearing loss because of complications like:
- More frequent trips to the ER
- Increased Fall Risk
- Social Isolation
- Strained relationships
These are all substantially more common in individuals with neglected hearing loss.
Ways You Can Prevent Further Hearing Damage
Begin by learning how to prevent hearing loss.
- Get a sound meter app on your phone. Determine how loud things actually are.
- Learn about harmful levels. Above 85 dB (decibels) can cause irreversible hearing loss in 8 hours. 110 dB takes around 15 minutes to cause permanent hearing loss. 120 dB and over will cause immediate hearing loss. 140 to 170 dB is the average volume of a gunshot.
- Realize that you’ve already triggered irreversible hearing damage each time you’ve had a difficult time hearing right after going to a concert. The more often it occurs, the worse it gets.
- Use earplugs and/or sound-canceling earmuffs when necessary.
- Follow work hearing protection rules.
- Reduce your exposure time to loud noises.
- Standing too close to loudspeakers is a bad idea in any situation.
- Some headphones and earbuds have on-board volume control for a safer listening experience. They have a 90 dB upper limit. At that level, even nonstop, all day listening wouldn’t cause hearing damage for the majority of 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.
- Use your hearing aid. The brain will begin to atrophy if you don’t wear your hearing aid when you require it. It’s similar to your leg muscles. If you let them go, it will be tough to get them back.
Get a Hearing Test
Are you putting things off or in denial? Stop it. You need to accept your hearing loss so that you can take measures to minimize further harm.
Talk to Your Hearing Professional About Hearing Loss Solutions
Hearing impairment does not have any “natural cure”. If hearing loss is extreme, it may be time to get a hearing aid.
Do a Cost to Benefit Analysis of Investing in Hearing Aids
Many individuals who do acknowledge their hearing loss simply choose to cope with it. They don’t want people to think they are old because they have hearing aids. Or they think that they cost too much.
But when they comprehend that hearing loss will worsen faster and can cause many health and relationship challenges, it’s easy to see that the pros well outweigh the cons.
Schedule a hearing exam with a hearing professional. And if hearing aids are advised, don’t worry about “feeling old”. Todays hearing aids are sophisticated and advanced pieces of modern technology.