HEARING TIPS

6 Ways to Lose Your Hearing

The strange part of hearing loss is that we don’t have a tendency to start appreciating our favorite sounds until after we’ve lost the capacity to clearly hear them. We don’t pause to give thought to, for example, how much we enjoy a good conversation with a friend until we have to continually ask them to repeat themselves.

Whether it’s your favorite Mozart album or the sounds of a Bluejay first thing in the morning, your quality of life is directly connected to your ability to hear—whether you realize it or not. And if you wait until after you’ve lost your hearing to come to this awareness, you’re going to devote quite a bit of time and effort trying to get it back.

So how can you retain your ability to hear?

Here are 6 ways you could lose your hearing and what you can do about it.

1. Genetics and aging

Age-related hearing loss, also called presbycusis, is the loss of hearing that slowly and gradually takes place as we get older. Along with presbycusis, there is also some evidence suggesting that genetics plays a role, and that some of us are more vulnerable to hearing loss than others.

While there’s not much you can do to stop the aging process or adjust your genetics, you can avoid noise-induced hearing loss from the other causes described below. And keep in mind that age-related hearing loss is considerably more difficult to treat if exacerbated by avoidable damage.

2. Traveling

Repeated exposure to sound levels above 85 decibels can cause permanent hearing loss, which is not-so-good news if you happen to drive a convertible. New research suggests that driving a convertible with the top down at excessive speeds generates an average sound volume level of 90 decibels. Motorcyclists encounter even louder sounds and those who take the subway are at risk as well.

So does everybody either have to abandon travel or live with permanent earplugs? Not exactly, but you should find ways to limit your collective noise exposure during travel. If you own a convertible, roll up your windows and drive a little slower; if you own a motorcycle, wear a helmet and think about earplugs; and if you take the subway, think about buying noise-canceling headsets.

3. Going to work

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), 22 million workers in the US are exposed to potentially hazardous noise levels on the job. The highest risk jobs are in manufacturing, farming, construction, the military, and the music industry.

The last thing you need is to spend your total working life accumulating hearing loss that will prevent you from making the most of your retirement. Check with your company about its hearing protection plan, and if they don’t have one, consult with your local hearing specialist for personalized solutions.

4. Taking drugs and smoking

Smoking interferes with blood flow, among other things, which could enhance your risk of developing hearing loss—if you really required another reason to quit. Antibiotics, potent pain medications, and a large number of other drugs are “ototoxic,” or damaging to the cells of hearing. In fact, there are more than 200 known ototoxic medications.

The bottom line: try to avoid consuming ototoxic drugs or medications unless completely necessary. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions.

5. Listening to music

85 is turning out to be quite an inconvenient number. Almost all of our favorite activities generate decibel levels just over this threshold, and anything over 85 decibels can result in hearing loss. If the limit were just a little higher, say 100 decibels, we wouldn’t have to worry about it so much.

But 85 it is. And portable mp3 players at maximum volume reach more than 100 decibels while rock concerts reach more than 110. The solution is straightforward: turn down your iPod, wear earplugs at concerts, and reduce your time of exposure to the music.

6. Getting sick or injured

Selected conditions, such as diabetes, along with any traumatic head injuries, places you at greater risk of developing hearing loss. If you have diabetes, frequent exercise, a healthy diet, and consistent monitoring of glucose levels is essential. And if you ride a motorcycle, wearing a helmet will help protect against traumatic head injuries.

Talk to Your Hearing Specialist

While there are many ways to lose your hearing, a few easy lifestyle modifications can help you conserve your hearing for life. Remember: the slight hassle of wearing custom earplugs, driving with the windows up, or turning down your iPod are slight compared to the substantial inconvenience of hearing loss later in life.

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