Cedar Audiology Associates - Cleveland, OH

The ironic part of hearing loss is that we don’t tend to begin appreciating our favorite sounds until after we’ve lost the capability to clearly hear them. We don’t pause to think about, for instance, how much we appreciate a good conversation with a close friend until we have to persistently ask them to repeat themselves.

Whether it’s your favorite Mozart album or the songs of a Bluejay first thing in the morning, your total well being is directly linked to your ability to hear—whether you recognize it or not. And if you wait until after you’ve lost your hearing to come to this realization, you’re going to dedicate quite a bit of time and effort working to get it back.

So how can you protect 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 gradually occurs as we grow older. Together 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 modify your genetics, you can avoid noise-induced hearing loss from the other causes identified below. And keep in mind that age-related hearing loss is considerably more difficult to treat if aggravated by avoidable damage.

2. Traveling

Routine exposure to sound volumes above 85 decibels can lead to permanent hearing loss, which is bad news if you happen to own a convertible. New research shows that driving a convertible with the top down at high speeds generates an average sound volume level of 90 decibels. Motorcyclists face even higher 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 quite, but you should find ways to reduce your cumulative noise exposure during travel. If you drive a convertible, roll up your windows and drive a little slower; if you ride a motorcycle, wear a helmet and consider earplugs; and if you use the subway, give some thought to buying noise-canceling headsets.

3. Going to work

As indicated by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), 22 million employees 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 want is to spend your total work life accumulating hearing loss that will keep you from making the most of your retirement. Get in touch with your supervisor about its hearing protection plan, and if they don’t have one, consult your local hearing specialist for custom made solutions.

4. Taking drugs and smoking

Smoking impedes blood flow, on top of 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 significant 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: avoid using ototoxic drugs or medications unless completely necessary. Speak to your doctor if you have any questions.

5. Listening to music

85 is turning out to be quite an inconvenient number. Many of our favorite activities yield decibel levels just over this threshold, and anything over 85 decibels can cause 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 music players at maximum volume get to more than 100 decibels while rock shows reach more than 110. The solution is straight forward: turn down your iPod, wear earplugs at concerts, and limit your time of exposure to the music.

6. Getting sick or injured

Selected disorders, such as diabetes, together with any traumatic head injuries, places you at a higher risk of developing hearing loss. If you have diabetes, frequent exercise, a healthy diet, and regular tracking of glucose levels is critical. And if you drive a motorcycle, using a helmet will help protect against traumatic head injuries.

Talk to Your Hearing Specialist

Although there are many ways to lose your hearing, a few basic lifestyle adjustments can help you retain your hearing for life. Keep in mind: the slight inconvenience of wearing custom earplugs, driving with the windows up, or turning down your iPod are insignificant in comparison to the substantial inconvenience of hearing loss later in life.

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