Hearing loss is an all too common problem plaguing people aged 60 and older. It is estimated that around half of all people 85 and older have some degree of hearing loss.
Hearing problems can affect you negatively in many ways. It can lower your quality and enjoyment of life, cause embarrassment with social interactions and even endanger you by making you unaware of critical situations that may arise.
There are two main types of hearing issues that commonly arise with aging – loss of hearing and tinnitus.
Loss of hearing may happen gradually or suddenly, and be anywhere on a scale from slight to severe. This typically is caused when the tiny hairs in your ears that convert sound waves to sound, are damaged or die. This kind of hearing loss is usually permanent.
Tinnitus on the other hand is a ringing in the ears that may be brought on by a sudden loud noise. Tinnitus may be temporary or permanent. There is no known treatment or cure for it.
Other less common causes of hearing loss are ear wax buildup, eardrum damage, tumors, stroke, medication or allergies.
Although cochlear implant surgery and hearing aid technology have advanced greatly and help many maintain a closer to normal life of hearing, it is of course preferable to not have to resort to those in the first place.
So what can you to do protect yourself from hearing loss?
1. Protect your ears physically. If you are going to be exposed to loud sounds whether sudden or continual, do use earplugs or earmuffs to protect your ears. Both of these can reduce noise by up to 15-30 decibels.
2. Avoid loud noise. Don’t put yourself in potentially noisy environments in the first place. At home, watch the volume as well. Be cautious when listening to music with headphones or earbuds, and when buying appliances, make sure that they are rated to be on the quiet side.
3. Don’t drink. Ethanol impairs the ability of the fragile bones in your ear to close up in response to sudden loud noises. This may expose you to tinnitus or to permanent hearing loss.
4. Don’t smoke. Exposure to cigarette smoke has been connected to hearing loss. Research has shown that smoking, noise exposure and age all together is a triple threat that increases hearing loss risks.
5. Eat a nutrient dense diet. There are several key nutrients that have been shown to prevent and/or reduce hearing loss. Some may even help increase hearing levels after damage has been done. Melatonin, magnesium, vitamin E and antioxidants have shown potential to help significantly. Many fruits and vegetables contain good amounts of these vitamins and minerals and will help preserve your hearing health.
If your hearing is great now, employing these strategies will help you keep your ears sharp through the years. If you’re starting to notice some hearing problems, getting regular check-ups and continuing to use these tips will go a long way toward protecting your hearing before encountering permanent loss.