Sometimes, hearing loss can’t be avoided. Presbycusis, or age-related hearing loss, affects 1/3 of adults aged 65 or older regardless of their medical history, and is considered a natural step in the aging process. Fortunately, certain types of hearing loss – mainly those related to excessive noise exposure – can be prevented by taking a few simple precautions.
Symptoms of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss often develops gradually over time, with symptoms coming on so slowly you may not even be aware of a problem until it reaches an advanced stage. Symptoms include speech that sounds muffled or difficult to understand, a feeling of fullness in the ears, asking others to repeat themselves often, turning up the volume to levels that others find uncomfortable, and tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
People of all ages are prone to noise-induced hearing loss. This occurs when you are exposed to continuous noise levels exceeding 85 decibels (dB); such loud sounds permanently damage the hair cells of the inner ear, leading to hearing loss. Activities that expose you to unsafe sound levels include hunting, riding a motorcycle or snowmobile, playing in a band, attending rock concerts, and using heavy equipment and power tools.
You don’t have to give up the activities you love – you just have to enjoy them safely and responsibly.
Preventing Hearing Loss
Hearing loss prevention is as simple as protecting your ears from excessive noise exposure. The simplest way to accomplish this is by using earplugs and other hearing protection devices when encountering continuous loud noises. On the jobsite, your employer is required to provide OSHA-approved safety equipment that includes hearing protection devices. And when you’re enjoying recreational activities, it’s a good idea to carry a good pair of earplugs with you at all times.
Safety is every bit as necessary in the home. A growing source of hearing loss, especially in teens and young adults, is music played at inappropriate volume levels through MP3 players. Keep the volume down to a reasonable level. If others nearby can hear your music, it’s too loud!
Also, refrain from inserting cotton swabs or other objects (e.g. safety pins, fingernails) into your ears. Blow your nose gently through both nostrils, and give up cigarettes as studies show tobacco users are more likely to suffer hearing loss.
No matter your age, have your hearing tested on a regular basis. Early detection is the key to preventing hearing loss from growing worse!