Hearing loss is the third most common chronic health issue facing older adults in the US, more prevalent than cancer or diabetes. It impacts an estimated 1 in 8 people, however, many underestimate the serious nature of the condition. Unaddressed hearing loss is more than missing some sounds. Hearing is a communication issue and as it develops it can slowly cause rifts to form in your closest relationships.
Hearing loss is a permanent condition and as years go by declines in the quality of friendships and the loss of intimacy can cause a lack of confidence, depression, social anxiety, and loneliness. In addition, hearing starts in the ears, but sounds are processed in the brain. When sound cannot reach the brain, it causes people to strain to fill in blanks, causing cognitive strain.
If unaddressed this can escalate into cognitive decline and an increased risk of dementia. It’s important to do what you can to protect your hearing before it gets to this point. Here are a few tips to ensure that you can protect your hearings for years to come.
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
One of the most common causes of hearing loss is exposure to loud noise. The intensity of sound is measured in decibels and any decibel reading over 85dB can cause irreversible damage to your hearing. Fragile and tiny hair-like cells called stereocilia are the sole delivery system for sound waves to the brain. When sounds pass a safe listening threshold they can cause violent vibrations strong enough to shatter the stereocilia against the membrane walls which hold them.
Monitor the Decibel Levels in Your Life
According to the Hearing Health Foundation:
- 30 million people are exposed to hazardous levels of noise in the workplace
- 50% of people ages 12-35 are exposed to unsafe levels of noise from the use of personal audio devices
It’s not just the level of noise but the length of exposure. It takes 8 hours of constant exposure at 85 dB for damage to hearing to occur, but at 95dB it only takes 50 minutes. Monitor your listening levels in the places you frequent the most such as work, school, home, or even your commute. Most smartphones have apps available for free download which can detect the average decibel level of sound so you can determine if it’s dangerous or not. If it is it is important to take preventative steps.
Wear Hearing Protection
If you discover that your hearing is at risk then one of the most common measures is wearing hearing protection. Hearing protection can lower the decibel level from 15-30dB depending on the model. Foam earplugs are affordable but can be worn wrong, while for those who encounter loud noises daily, custom-fitted earplugs or over-the-ear protection may be a safer method.
Listening to Headphones Safely
One of the largest sources of noise-induced hearing loss is due to people turning up their headphone levels to block out other noises. Headphones can easily reach 100 dB, loud enough to damage hearing in just 15 minutes. However, people tend to listen to their headphones for hours at a time. Make sure to keep the level on your headphones turned down to no higher than 60% of the potential volume and be sure to take listening breaks.
Invest in Noise Cancelling Headphones
Noise cancellation technology is designed to quiet background noise, reducing the need to turn up the volume and inevitably cause lifelong hearing damage, day after day. While these devices can be on at a higher price point, they can enhance listening quality and protect your hearing all at once.
Have Hearing Checked Regularly
You may have a hearing loss and not even know it. Commonly people live with undiagnosed hearing loss for years due to the gradual nature it often takes. Hearing aids are the most common treatment, amplifying sounds you struggle with based on a hearing exam and allowing you to hear the rest with your original hearing. New hearing aid technology offers a barrage of innovations such as noise suppression, directional microphones to help you hear conversations in noisy places, and adaptive settings for a wide range of listening environments. Many of these features can reduce strain, help you protect your existing hearing, and allow you to enjoy clearer hearing for years to come. To find out more, schedule an appointment today.