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6 Ways to Protect Your Hearing as You Age
Your ears help you listen to the voices of your loved ones and allow you to enjoy the sounds of earth, from the beach waves to music.
According to The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, about 25% of adults ages 65 and older and 50% of adults ages 75 and over experience disabled hearing loss.1
Once your hearing is damaged, there is no way to recover it. If you notice that your hearing has changed, it’s usually too late to undo the damage from hearing loss.
It’s important to protect your hearing as you get older to ensure that you’re still able to listen to the world around you. Here are 6 ways to protect your hearing as you age.
Avoid Exposure to Loud Noises
One of the best ways to prevent hearing loss is actively avoiding exposure to loud noises.
Loud noises are more likely to damage your hearing because they affect the cochlea, which is your inner ear. Listening to loud music or hearing a one-time loud noise has the potential to damage the cells and membranes that help you hear sound. Exposure to loud noises over time can permanently damage your hearing.2
Thankfully, you have control over your environment and can take precautions to avoid coming in contact with loud sounds.
One way to prevent hearing damage from loud noises is to avoid exposure to loud machines or equipment. For example, if you’re walking down the sidewalk and someone is using their lawn mower, walk on the side across the street to avoid getting close to the machine.
If you know that you’re going to be exposed to loud sounds at a place such as a concert, make sure to give your ears time to recover afterwards. You should also never stand directly next to the source of the sound, such as a speaker, because you will be more likely to damage your hearing.
Protect Your Ears With Proper Equipment
Protecting your ears with the proper equipment can help prevent hearing loss. Whether you know you’re going to encounter loud noises or are just looking for some quietness, use the right equipment that will protect your ears without causing any internal damage to them.
Here are a few ideas on ear equipment you can use to protect your hearing as you age:
- Noise-canceling headphones. There are many brands of noise-canceling headphones made with insulated ear cushions that can block sound and allow you to clearly hear music. Noise-canceling headphones are a great option if you’re looking to listen to music without hearing noises in the background at places such as the office, subway, or park. They are safer to use than blasting your earbuds to drown out the noises because you will be able to listen to your devices without having to turn up the volume all the way.
- Ear Muffs. Ear muffs use insulated foam cups to safely cover your ears and drown out heavy sounds. Use ear muffs to reduce the noises of loud equipment such as your power tools at home. These ear muffs should be able to safely lower noise levels and be comfortable enough to not distract you from your task.
- Ear Plugs. Another way you can protect your ears is by wearing ear plugs. You can use ear plugs to safely minimize the sound around you if you’re looking to avoid hearing things such as a busy freeway or people in the other room. Make sure to follow the directions on the ear plugs and change them frequently to avoid getting infections from bacteria build-up. There are many different types of ear plugs including wax and foam that are made to fit different ear types.
Keep the Volume Natural
Many people enjoy listening to their favorite songs or the television at a louder volume. However, the World Health Organization estimates that approximately 1 billion young adults are at risk for hearing damage because they have unsafe listening practices.3
One way to protect your hearing as you age is to listen to your devices at a normal volume. While most people will know if the sound is too loud, a good rule of thumb is to turn it down if someone has to shout.
Furthermore, there are ways to purchase safe listening devices that will regulate the volume and prevent hearing damage. Some devices will have functions that can automatically adjust the volume to a safe level when listening to a movie or video.
If you find that you’re unable to hear something at a natural volume, don’t turn it up. Try going to a quieter place or using headphones that can allow you to safely listen without needing to turn the sound up higher.
Get a Hearing Test
If you experience hearing loss or discover a distortion in the way you hear sound, getting a hearing test is one way you can protect your hearing as you age.
Some reasons you should get a hearing test include:
- You have difficulty hearing conversations
- Consistently hearing a ringing in your ears
- Experiencing a sudden change in your hearing
- Feeling pain or damage in your ear
Your doctor can let you know the cause of your hearing loss and if there are any next steps you can take to prevent further damage.
You should also consider seeing a doctor for regular check-ups if hearing loss runs in your family. They will be able to let you know how well your hearing currently is and what your risks are for developing hearing loss.
There are many health reasons as to why you shouldn’t smoke, and the potential of losing your hearing is one of them.
A Japanese study published by Reuters News found that 60% of people who smoked were more likely to develop high-frequency hearing loss. The smokers were also found to be 20% more likely to have an issue detecting deep voices.4
Furthermore, a study on teen smokers found that secondhand smoke can contribute to hearing loss. Roughly 80% of the participants who experienced hearing loss did not notice a detectable change, but the researchers found that the smoke did, in fact, cause a decline in their hearing over time.5
One reason smoking causes hearing loss is it can damage the Eustachian tube, which connects the middle ear to the back of your throat. Smoke can cause blockages in this tube, which will cause pressure build-up and prevent it from properly draining the mucus from your inner ear lining.6
Control Blood Sugar if You Have Diabetes
One of the most common side effects that occurs in those who have diabetes is hearing loss. 34 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, and according to a study those diagnosed are twice as likely to experience hearing loss at some point in their life.7
In a study published in Annals of Internal Medicine, the researchers randomly assigned half of 11,405 participants ages 20-69 to take a hearing test. 90% of the participants completed the test alongside a diabetes questionnaire. They found that those with diabetes struggled with their hearing at all frequencies – low, middle, and high – by measuring their hearing 8 different ways.8
While researchers are unsure what exactly causes hearing loss in those with diabetes, it is suggested that high glucose blood levels can damage the blood vessels in the inner ear. The hairs in our ears rely on blood circulation to stay healthy, but once the hairs in the ear are damaged they are unable to regenerate and translate sound.9
If you have diabetes, work to eat a diet that maintains your blood sugar levels to help prevent hearing loss. Talk to your doctor about your risk and ways you can work to prevent hearing damage as you age.
Protect Your Hearing Today!
Take the precautions to protect your ears today to ensure that you don’t lose your hearing later in life.
Here at Saber Healthcare, we offer care that helps our residents achieve their goals. Click here to learn more about the services we provide.
Saber Healthcare is an organization dedicated to providing consultant services to long term care providers. This article is for informational purposes and is not meant to be seen as professional advice. Please consult with a medical expert before relying on the information provided.
- “Quick Statistics on Hearing.” National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, nidcd.nih.gov. Last Updated March 25th, 2021. Accessed July 15th, 2021. Link: https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/statistics/quick-statistics-hearing
- “How Does Loud Noises Cause Hearing Loss?” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last updated November 24th, 2020. Accessed July 15th, 2021. Link: https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/hearing_loss/how_does_loud_noise_cause_hearing_loss.html
- “Deafness and hearing loss.” World Health Organization, WHO.int. Published April 1st, 2021. Accessed July 15th, 2021. Link: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/deafness-and-hearing-loss
- Rapaport, Lisa. “Smoking tied to higher risk of hearing loss.” Reuters, reuters.com. March 14th, 2018. Accessed July 15th, 2021. Link: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-hearing-smoking/smoking-tied-to-higher-risk-of-hearing-loss-idUSKCN1GQ2FJ
- Anil Lalwani et. all. “Second Hand Smoke is Associated with Sensorineural Hearing Loss in Adolescents.” U.S. Library of Medicine National Institute of Health, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Published July 31st, 2014. Accessed July 15th, 2021. Link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4117391/
- “How Are Smoking and Hearing Loss Related?” Audiology & Hearing Health, audiologyandhearing.com. September 1st, 2018. Accessed July 15th, 2021. Link: https://www.audiologyandhearing.com/how-are-smoking-and-hearing-loss-related/
- “Diabetes and Hearing Loss.” American Diabetes Association, diabetes.org. Accessed July 15th, 2021. Link: https://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-and-hearing-loss
- “Hearing Loss Is Common in People with Diabetes.” National Institutes of Health, nih.gov. June 16th, 2008. Accessed July 15th, 2021. Link: https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/hearing-loss-common-people-diabetes
- Clason, Debbie. “The connection between diabetes and hearing loss.” Healthy Hearing, healthyhearing.com. November 12th, 2018. Accessed July 15th, 2021. Link: https://www.healthyhearing.com/report/52910-Diabetes-and-hearing-loss