Illini Hearing - Champaign and Mahomet, IL


Couple enjoying their motorcycle while protecting their ears from further hearing loss.

Loss of hearing is common for most people, but does it have to be that way? The fact is, the majority of people will begin to recognize a change in their hearing as they age. After listening to sound for many years, you will notice even slight changes in your hearing ability. As with most things in life, though, prevention is the key to managing the degree of that loss and how fast it progresses. Your hearing will be affected later in life by the things you decide to do now. You should think about it sooner than later because you can still prevent further hearing loss. You want to keep your hearing from getting worse, but what can be done?

Comprehending Hearing Loss

It starts with recognizing how the ears work and what causes most hearing loss. Age-related hearing loss, medically known as presbycusis, is affecting one in three people in this country between the ages of 64 and 74. It is an accumulation of damage to the ears over time. Presbycusis is slight at first and then gets progressively worse.

The ear canal amplifies sound waves several times before they get to the inner ear. Sound waves vibrate little hairs which bump against chemical releasing structures. These chemicals are translated into electrical signals that the brain interprets as sound.

The negative aspect to all this shaking and bumping is that the hair cells eventually break down and stop working. When these hair cells are destroyed, they are gone forever. Without those cells to produce the electrical impulses, the sound is never translated into a language the brain can comprehend.

So, what causes this damage to the hair cells? There are lots of contributing factors including ordinary aging. Sound waves come in different strengths, though; that is what you know as volume. More damage is done to the hair cells if they receive stronger sound waves, and that means a higher volume of sound.

Direct exposure to loud noise isn’t the only factor. Additionally, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other chronic diseases will take a toll.

How to Take Care Of Your Hearing

You need to rely on good hearing hygiene to take care of your ears over time. Volume is at the heart of the problem. When sound is at a higher volume or decibel level, it is exponentially more damaging to the ears. You may believe that it takes a very loud volume to cause injury, but it doesn’t. You shouldn’t need to raise your voice to talk over another sound. If you do that sound is too loud.

Everyone has to cope with the occasional loud noise but frequent exposure or even just a couple of loud minutes at a time is sufficient to impact your hearing later on. Taking precautions when you expect to be subjected to loud sound, fortunately, is pretty simple. Wear hearing protection when you:

  • Do something where the noise is loud.
  • Run power equipment
  • Ride a motorcycle
  • Go to a performance

Headphones, earbuds, and other accessories designed to isolate and amplify sound should be avoided. A lower volume should be chosen and use conventional speakers.

Manage The Noise Around You

Over time, even everyday sounds can become a hearing hazard. The noise rating should be checked before you invest in a new appliance. The lower the noise rating the better.

When you are out at a crowded restaurant or party, don’t be afraid to speak up if the noise gets too loud. The host of the party, or perhaps even the restaurant manager will probably be willing to help accommodate for your issue.

Be Aware of Noise Levels at Work

If your job exposes you to loud noises like equipment, you should do something about it. If your employer doesn’t provide hearing protection, invest in your own. There are numerous products out there that will protect you such as:

  • Earplugs
  • Headphones
  • Earmuffs

There’s a good chance that if you mention your concern, your manager will listen.

Stop Smoking

Put hearing health on the list of reasons you shouldn’t smoke. Studies show that smokers are much more likely to get age-related hearing loss. This is true if you are exposed to second-hand smoke, as well.

Check And Double Check Your Medications

Many medications are ototoxic, meaning they damage your hearing. A few typical offenders include:

  • Certain antibiotics
  • Diuretics
  • Aspirin
  • NSAIDS
  • Narcotic analgesics
  • Cardiac medication
  • Mood stabilizers and antidepressants

The complete list is quite a bit longer than this and includes prescription medication as well as over the counter products. If you use pain relievers, do so only when necessary and check the labels. If you are unsure about a drug, consult your doctor before taking it.

Treat Your Body Well

The common things you should do anyway like eating right and exercise are an important part of preventing hearing loss from getting worse, especially as you get older. Do what is required to manage your high blood pressure like taking your medication and reducing salt consumption. The better you take care of your body, the lower your risk of chronic health problems that could cost you your hearing over time, like diabetes.

If you think you have hearing loss or if you have ringing in your ears, get a hearing exam. Pay close attention to your hearing because you might not even know that you need hearing aids. If you observe any changes in your hearing, schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist. It’s not too late to take care of your hearing.

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