When you were younger, you most likely considered hearing loss a result of aging. You likely had older adults in your life trying to comprehend words or wearing hearing aids.
But in the same way as 30 or 60 only seemed old to you until it fast approached, as you become more aware about hearing loss, you realize that it has less to do with aging and much more to do with something else.
You need to understand this one thing: It doesn’t make you old just because you acknowledge you have hearing loss.
Hearing Loss is a Condition That Can Occur at Any Age
By the age of 12, audiologists can already see some hearing loss in 13% of cases. You’ll recognize, this isn’t because a 12 year old is “old”. In the past 30 years, hearing loss among teenagers has risen by 33 %.
What’s the cause of this?
2% of 45 – 55-year-olds and 8% of 55 – 64 year-olds already have debilitating hearing loss.
Aging isn’t the problem. What you probably consider an age-related hearing loss is 100% avoidable. And limiting its development is well within your power.
Age-related hearing loss, known medically sensorineural hearing loss, is usually caused by noise.
Hearing loss was, for many years, assumed to be an inevitable part of aging. But nowadays, science understands more about how to safeguard your hearing and even repair it.
How Noise Leads to Hearing Loss
Step one to protecting your hearing is understanding how something as “innocuous” as noise causes hearing loss.
Sound is composed of waves. The canal of your ear receives these waves. They progress past your eardrum into your inner ear.
In your inner ear are very small hair cells that vibrate when sound strikes them. The speed and intensity of these vibrations then encode a neurological signal. Your brain then converts this code into sound.
But these hairs can oscillate with too much intensity when the inner ear gets sound that is too intense. This level of sound damages these hairs and they will eventually fail.
Without them, you won’t be able to hear.
Why Noise-Induced Hearing Loss is Irreversible
If you cut your hand, the wound heals. But when you damage these tiny hair cells, they cannot heal, and they never regenerate. Over time, as you expose your ears to loud noise, more and more of these hairs die.
Hearing loss worsens as they do.
Hearing Damage Can be Caused by These Common Noises
Most people don’t know that hearing loss can be caused by every day noises. These things might seem totally harmless:
- Being a musician
- Using head phones/earbuds
- Going to a concert/play/movies
- Running farm equipment
- Going to a noisy workplace
- Mowing the lawn
- Cranking up the car stereo
- Driving on a busy highway with the windows or top down
- Riding a motorcycle/snowmobile
You can keep on doing these things. Luckily, you can decrease 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’re already dealing with it, doesn’t have to make you feel old. The fact is, failing to accept it can doom you to faster development and complications that “will” make you feel much older in just a few years like:
- Social Isolation
- More frequent trips to the ER
- Increased Fall Risk
- Strained relationships
For individuals with neglected hearing loss these are a lot more common.
Ways You Can Prevent Additional Hearing Damage
Learning how to avoid hearing loss is the starting point.
- Download a sound meter app on your smartphone. Find out how loud things actually are.
- Know about dangerous levels. In less than 8 hours, permanent hearing loss can be the result of volumes over 85dB. Irreversible hearing loss, at 110 dB, occurs in about 15 minutes. Instant hearing loss happens at 120dB or higher. 140 to 170 dB is the average volume of a gunshot.
- Know that If you’ve ever had trouble hearing for a while after going to a concert, you’ve already caused permanent harm to your hearing. The more often it occurs, the worse it gets.
- Use earplugs and/or sound-canceling earmuffs when necessary.
- Implement work hearing protection safeguards.
- Reduce your exposure time to loud noises.
- Standing too close to loudspeakers is a bad idea in any setting.
- Some headphones and earbuds have built in volume control for a safer listening experience. They have a 90 dB limit. At that volume, even constant, all day listening wouldn’t cause hearing damage for most people.
- Some medications, low blood oxygen, and even high blood pressure can make you more susceptible at lower volumes. Always keep your headphones at 50% or less. Car speakers vary.
- Wear your hearing aid. The brain will begin to atrophy if you don’t use your hearing aid when you need it. It works the same way as your muscles. If you let them go, it will be difficult to get them back.
Get a Hearing Test
Are you procrastinating or in denial? Don’t do it. Be active about reducing further damage by acknowledging your circumstance.
Speak with Your Hearing Specialist About Hearing Solutions
Hearing loss has no “natural cure”. It might be time to get a hearing aid if your hearing loss is extreme.
Do a Cost to Benefit Analysis of Investing in Hearing Aids
Lots of people are either in denial about hearing loss, or they decide to “tough it out”. They don’t want people to think they look old because they wear hearing aids. Or they think they cost too much.
It’s easy to see, however, that when the adverse effect on health and relationships will cost more in the long run.
Schedule a hearing test with a hearing professional. And if hearing aids are recommended, don’t worry about “feeling old”. Hearing aids at present are a lot sleeker and more sophisticated than you may believe!