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Losing your hearing can begin at any age. The number of Americans with the condition between 45 and 64 years has significantly increased since 1971, based on figures from the National Academy on Aging and Society. But much more often, it is in older adults: about 40 percent of America’s 20 million sufferers are 65 years old or older.
Preventing hearing loss
Hearing loss does not automatically indicate aging, contrary to popular belief. Some hearing loss occurs much younger, primarily due to noise exposure. Called Noise-induced Hearing loss, this is the one type that can be prevented.
We measure noise levels in units called decibels (dB). The louder the noise. Any sound over 85dB can be harmful, especially if you’re exposed to it for a long time.
Here are some everyday noises and how loud they are in terms of decibels:
- whispering – 30dB
- conversation – 60dB
- heavy traffic – 70 to 85dB
- motorbike – 90dB
- playing your favorite song through your headphones – 100 to 110dB
- plane taking off – 120dB
You can usually tell whether the noise around you is too noisy even without a sound measuring device. If you or others need to scream out to be heard, the sound is too loud and can impair your hearing over time.
Here are some ways in which you can best prevent hearing loss and be able to preserve your hearing in old age.
It’s an absolute priority to maintain your hearing — and avoid unnecessary damage to your ears. Smartphone apps that calculate noise levels are available. Once the noisy sound has been detected, take noise control measures:
- Move or stay far from the loudest music source, such as loudspeakers or cannons, especially if you attend with children.
- Turn the TV, radio, or music volume down.
- Take brief breaks if you listen to loud music.
- Use quieter technology (electricity devices, toys, recreational vehicles) whenever they are available.
Prepare to use hearing protection like earmuffs and earplugs if noisy sounds are around, but there is no way to avoid the area. Examples of places like these include sports stadiums, public events, and concerts.
When you work in a noisy place, such as a blow dryer hair salon in continuous use, or an area with music buzzing in the background, find out whether your employer can help you with some protective devices.
When off work, buy some yourself and take your hearing protection devices wherever you go.
Be careful with your recreational activities.
Ask yourself which of your recreational activities are most likely to harm your hearing.
Hunting, using power tools, and watching rock shows can harm your hearing over time. For many people, music is most likely to damage hearing, but other active pursuits that should carry the same warning are motorcycling, recreational shooting, and water sports.
Practice safe ear cleanings
Do not clean your ears using cotton swabs. This action can force wax onto your tubers, increase wax production and damage the tubers. An excess of wax can cause conductive hearing loss. To avoid ear infections, do not wash with unclean water.
Keep your blood pressure under control.
High blood pressure and heart disease can harm delicate structures that help you hear. It is generally a good health tip to manage your blood pressure, but maintaining hearing health is another reason why you should.
Get your hearing tested regularly.
Get tested regularly if you are concerned that your hearing may be compromised. The earlier you detect a hearing loss, the sooner something can be done. If you are at higher risk of noise-induced hearing loss–if you are a singer, for example, or work in a noisy environment–we recommend routine hearing tests once a year.
Multiple studies show that happier lives are likelier for those who tackle their hearing loss. But prevention is always better than the cure. Only once we lose our hearing do we profoundly realize how important it is; well-fitted hearing aids can be an effective way to recover sounds lost and engage in a variety of social activities.