How to Prevent Hearing Loss
Recently, we discussed the three types of hearing loss as well as some of the common causes of hearing loss. Now let's discuss what we can do to safeguard ourselves against hearing loss.
While we cannot control birth defects or genetic predispositions to hearing loss, we do have control over our lifestyle. Lifestyle management is the most effective safeguard against hearing loss.
Six lifestyle choices to help prevent hearing loss
In a nutshell, to prevent hearing loss you need to be aware of the noise around you and protect your hearing whenever possible. Noise-induced hearing loss is the most preventable form of hearing loss and one we can rely on simple lifestyle changes to prevent. Let's dig in to some specific tips to preventing hearing loss:
1. Begin by getting annual hearing tests.
Hearing loss in older adults caused by aging (presbycusis) typically happens in a very gradual way, going unnoticed by most. It's important to receive annual hearing tests to monitor any unnoticed changes in your hearing. Schedule a complimentary hearing test with one of our Missouri licensed audiologists and take control of your own hearing health.
2. Avoid prolonged exposure to loud noises. Unsure what is considered prolonged exposure? To begin, let your ears be your guide. Any situation where you leave with a ringing in your ears (tinnitus) is a clear sign you were exposed to the loud noise for longer than you should have been. Situations where you have trouble hearing for any time period after an event is also a clear sign that you were exposed to dangerous decibel levels. Even if your normal hearing returns after either of these examples, you are still at a risk of having damaged your ears.
Other instances of prolonged exposure may not be so obvious. Common chores and hobbies may unwittingly expose you to dangerous noise levels, like household appliances, lawn mowers, old hair dryers and more.
3. Avoid noisy work environments. Hearing Loss is the most common occupational injury in the United States. If your work environment is too loud, ask your employer for hearing protection. You do not have to suffer from noise-induced hearing loss because of noise levels at your work environment. Unfortunately, many people do because they do not know their rights. Click here for more information on Occupational Noise Exposure from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Job positions that put you at a higher risk of hearing loss include:
- Construction workers
- Ambulance drivers
- Military personnel
- Factory workers
- City workers operating machinery
- Sporting event staff
- Airline personnel
4. Be mindful of your recreational activities where you are in noisy environments on a regular basis. Do your best to limit your exposure to these louder events. When you will be vulnerable to loud noise at these types of environments, be prepared with hearing protection. Wear earplugs or noise canceling headphones to protect your ears.
Recreational activities that pose a risk of noise-induced hearing loss:
- Rock concerts
- Sporting events
- Air shows with jet engines over head
- Motorcycle riding
- Recreational vehicle use such as jet skis, wake boarding boats and dirt bike riding
- Shooting ranges
- Lighting firecrackers/seeing fireworks
5. Turn down the noise at home. Daily household activities such as using the vacuum cleaner or the lawn mower put you at risk. Loud music on your headphones or earbuds at max volume can cause permanent hearing loss after just 15 minutes of listening each day. Keep your music at a safe decibel level.
Be aware of excessive background noise such as a loud TV or radio, and turn down the volume.
6. Talk to your doctor about the medications you are taking. Some medications, called Ototoxic drugs, can cause hearing loss. The American Tinnitus Association (ATA) notes that the following ototoxic drugs may trigger tinnitus (ringing in the ears), increase an existing case of tinnitus or even cause permanent tinnitus symptoms:
- NSAIDs- such as your over-the-counter aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen.
- Certain antibiotics, certain cancer medications and diuretics.
- Anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications as well as some blood pressure medications.
In most cases, if the patient ceases use of these medications after the early signs of tinnitus occur, their hearing will return. Knowing what symptoms to look out for when you start these medications can help you catch them early should they arise. For a more complete list of ototoxic drugs that can cause tinnitus, click here.
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Understanding the Types of Hearing Loss
The great news is that many forms of hearing loss are preventable. To better understand how to prevent hearing loss, let's discuss the three common types of hearing loss:
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sensorineural: This type of hearing loss is caused by damage to the tiny hair cells of the inner ear due to aging, injury and lifestyle including birth defects, genetic factors, and aging (Presbycusis). Sensorineural hearing loss may be triggered by auto-immune disorders, infections such as meningitis, side effects of certain medications and both subjection to extremely loud sounds and general noise exposure. The best preventative measure against sensorineural hearing loss is managed through lifestyle choices.
Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive: This type of hearing loss is from damage to middle ear and/or outer ear. This type includes life events such as trauma/injury or ear infections. Conductive hearing loss by injury or infection can include: ear wax impaction, swimmer's ear, tumors or growths within the ear, blockages of the Eustachian tube which connects to the nose and throat, and obstructions inserted into the ear. The best preventative measure against conductive hearing loss is to seek help early from a medical professional when faced with an injury to or infection in the ears.
Mixed Hearing Loss
Mixed type: Mixed hearing loss involves damage to both the inner ear and the middle or outer ear. This type of hearing loss usually occurs from trauma to the ear. In each case, if you experience any of the following symptoms, it is best to reach out to your healthcare provider for treatment and advice:
- Ringing in one or both ears
- Pain or pressure in one or both ears
- Feeling dizzy or off-balance
- A discharge from your ear
- Trouble hearing as you normally do
Hearing loss is the third most common chronic health condition in the US.
Nearly two times as many people report hearing loss as they do cancer. (CDC)
Almost 40 million Americans suffer from hearing loss, and 25% of those cases can be credited to noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).
More than 1 in 2 US adults aged 20-69 years with hearing damage from noise did not incur the damage from noisy jobs. (CDC)
About 1 in 4 U.S. adults who report excellent to good hearing already have hearing damage. (CDC)
Visit an Audiologist
Be sure to see a doctor of audiology if you suffer an injury to the ear, a ear infection or experience sudden hearing loss. An early visit to your doctor can save you from permanent hearing loss.
If you or a loved one are experiencing signs of hearing loss, please call our practice today to schedule a consultation. Let us help you take the right steps towards improving what you hear. While we cannot reverse sensorineural hearing loss, we can work together to investigate the cause of your hearing loss, and discuss your treatment options. Should you need them, we offer many types of hearing aids and devices to assist your hearing.