Growing up into adulthood, you probably began to associate hearing loss with aging. Older adults in your life were probably wearing hearing aids or struggling to hear.
But just like 30 or 60 only seemed old to you until it started to catch up to you, as you become more aware about hearing loss, you realize that it has less to do with getting old and much more to do with something else.
Here is the one thing you should know: Acknowledging 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 see some hearing loss in 13% of cases. Clearly, you aren’t “old” when you’re 12. In the past 30 years, hearing loss among teenagers has increased by 33 %.
What’s the cause of this?
Debilitating hearing loss has already developed for 2% of people between 45 and 55 and 8% of people between the ages of 55 and 64.
Aging isn’t the issue. You can 100% prevent what is normally thought of as “age related hearing loss”. And you have the power to dramatically decrease its progression.
Age-associated hearing loss, clinically known as sensorineural hearing loss, is typically a result of noise.
For generations hearing loss was thought to be inevitable as you age. But today, science understands more about how to protect your hearing and even restore it.
How Noise Causes Hearing Loss
The first step to safeguarding your hearing is understanding how something as “harmless” as noise results in hearing loss.
Waves are what sound is made of. These waves travel into your ear canal. They move past your eardrum into your inner ear.
Inside your inner ear are very small hair cells that oscillate when sound impacts them. What hair cells oscillate, and how fast or frequently they vibrate, becomes a neurological code. Your brain is able to translate this code into words, rushing water, a car horn, a cry or anything else you may hear.
But when the inner ear is exposed to sounds that are too loud, these hair cells move too quickly. This level of sound destroys these hairs and they will eventually fail.
Without them, you can’t hear.
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss is Permanent, Here’s Why
If you cut your hand, the cut heals. But when you damage these little hair cells, they cannot heal, and they cannot grow back. Over time, as you subject your ears to loud noise, more and more of these hairs perish.
Hearing loss worsens as they do.
Hearing Damage Can be Caused by These every day Noises
Most people don’t recognize that hearing loss can be caused by noise we hear every day. You might not think twice about:
- Driving on a busy highway with the windows or top down
- Being a musician
- Running farm equipment
- Turning up the car stereo
- Working in a factory or other loud profession
- Going to a concert/play/movies
- Riding a motorcycle/snowmobile
- Using earbuds/head phones
- Mowing the lawn
You can continue to do these things. Luckily, you can lessen noise induced hearing loss by taking some preventative measures.
How to Stop Hearing Loss From Making You “Feel” Older
Acknowledging that you have hearing loss, if you already suffer from it, doesn’t have to make you feel old. As a matter of fact, failing to acknowledge it can doom you to faster progression and complications that “will” make you feel much 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 prevalent in those with untreated hearing loss.
Ways You Can Avoid Additional Hearing Problems
Understanding how to prevent hearing loss is the starting point.
- Get a sound meter app on your phone. Determine how loud things actually are.
- Learn about dangerous volumes. In under 8 hours, permanent hearing loss can be caused by volumes over 85dB. 110 dB takes about 15 minutes to trigger permanent hearing loss. Immediate hearing loss occurs at 120dB or higher. 140 to 170 dB is the average level of a gunshot.
- Understand that you’ve already caused irreversible hearing damage every time you’ve had a hard time hearing right after going to a concert. The more often it occurs, the worse it gets.
- Wear earplugs and/or sound-canceling earmuffs when necessary.
- When it comes to hearing protection, adhere to any safeguards that pertain to your situation.
- If you need to be exposed to loud sounds, limit the exposure time.
- Avoid standing close to loudspeakers or turning speakers up at home.
- Some headphones and earbuds have built in volume control for a safer listening experience. They never go over 90 decibels. Most people would need to listen nearly continuously all day to cause permanent damage.
- Some medications, low blood oxygen, and even high blood pressure can make you more vulnerable at lower volumes. Always keep your headphones at or below 50%. Car speakers will fluctuate and a volume meter app will help but regarding headphones, no louder than 50% is best policy.
- Use your hearing aid. The brain will start to atrophy if you don’t use your hearing aid when you require it. It’s a lot like your leg muscles. If you let them go, it will be hard to get them back.
Have a Hearing Examination
Are you in denial or just putting things off? Stop it. Be active about reducing further harm by acknowledging your circumstance.
Contact Your Hearing Specialist About Solutions For Your Hearing Loss.
There are no “natural cures” for hearing loss. If hearing loss is severe, it might be time to get a hearing aid.
Compare The Cost of Investing in Hearing Aids to The Benefits
Many people who do acknowledge their hearing loss just decide to cope with it. They don’t want people to think they look old because they have hearing aids. Or they assume that they cost too much.
It’s easy to see, however, that when the harmful effect on health and relationships will cost more in the long run.
Schedule a hearing test with a hearing specialist. And if hearing aids are suggested, don’t worry about “feeling old”. Todays hearing aids are stylish and advanced pieces of modern technology.