For most adults, hearing loss becomes an unavoidable part of the aging process. A condition referred to as presbycusis – which is caused by a slow breakdown of the tiny hairs that line the ear canals – affects nearly every senior to some degree, and ranks as the chief reason grandpa insists on having the TV turned up so loud.
While age-related hearing loss may be unavoidable, you can take steps to avoid noise-induced hearing loss, a condition that occurs from excessive exposure to loud noises, which damages hair cells in the ears. These cells are vital for picking up sound vibrations and sending them to the brain.
To help you hear better for longer, here are a few preventative steps you can take to help avoid premature hearing loss.
Avoid Loud Noises
So what constitutes as too loud? Well, any noise you need to shout over in order to be heard is considered loud enough to damage your hearing. For example, power tools such as drills and saws, stereos, motorcycles, lawnmowers, and anything else that make you shout “What?” are all loud enough to damage your hearing.
Become Quiet Conscious
Make sure your TV and stereo stay at reasonable volumes that don’t require a need to raise your voice to talk over. When buying household appliance like blenders or food processors, look for brands that advertise lower audible levels when turned on. Limit the use of headphones to only a few hours of the day, and make sure the volume stays at a level where you can hear someone talking to you over the music.
Limit Your Exposure
Depending on your line of work or proximity to a construction site, sometimes you just can’t avoid exposure to loud sounds. When exposed to loud sounds, you need to limit the amount of time you exposure your ears. This may mean leaving a concert early or standing in the back away from the speakers. However, in situations where you cannot excuse yourself, additional steps may be required.
If you know in advance that you’ll receive prolonged exposure to loud noises and can’t get away, you need to take precautions by wearing ear protection. Your choices can include:
- Earplugs. Typically made from foam rubber, earplugs can dramatically reduce noise level exposure from between 15 and 30 decibels. You can purchase earplugs at your local box store or have a pair custom made. Some higher end brands of earplugs are even designed to make sounds quiet but undistorted, such as musicians.
- Earmuffs. Made to fit entirely over your ears, earmuffs can also successfully reduce sound exposure by roughly 15 to 30 decibels. To work properly, earmuffs need to fit snuggly over both ears.
If you work in a factory, airport, or other location that subjects you to loud noises daily, you may want to consider using earmuffs and earplugs together.
Studies have found links between smoking and an increased risk of hearing loss. Researchers have shown that noise exposure, age, and smoking can all collectively increase an individual’s risk of hearing loss. So if you’re a smoker, you now have one more excellent reason to quit.
Timothy Lemke is a freelance writer. To read more of his work, visit the website of API/AMS, a Portland machining shop.