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How Are You Protecting Against Various Forms Of Hearing Loss

How Are You Protecting Against Various Forms Of Hearing Loss

Hearing is one of the vital senses we have. It allows you to connect with the vibrant world around you and helps you build lasting connections with the people in your life. Most of us tend to take our ears for granted, only paying attention when they hurt or when our hearing starts acting up. However, actively taking steps to care for and protect your ears will help ward off hearing loss.

Hearing loss in the US is a growing national epidemic. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), 48 million Americans suffer from some degree of hearing loss. This represents about 20% of our country’s population. The likelihood of hearing loss increases with age as nearly 25% of those aged 65-74 and 50% of those over 75 suffer from disabling hearing loss.

Although hearing loss can occur suddenly, it’s normally gradual and many of its causes can be prevented or easily treated as long as they’re detected early.

Common Types Of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss happens when certain parts of the ear and/or auditory pathways in the brain fail to function normally. There are 3 common types of hearing loss: conductive, sensorineural and mixed.

Conductive Hearing Loss – This is usually a problem of the outer ear. It happens when sound waves are blocked from traveling through the ear canal to the auditory nerves. Conductive hearing loss may affect only one ear, leading to hearing muted or faint sounds. Common causes include impacted ear wax, ear infections, eardrum perforation or various diseases that affect the ear canal, eardrums or ossicles in the middle ear. This type of hearing loss can be corrected medically or surgically and full hearing restored.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss – This type of hearing loss occurs when there is damage to the inner ear (cochlear) or to the auditory nerves. In most cases, sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) is permanent and it cannot be surgically or medically corrected. The only treatment is using assistive devices such as hearing aids or cochlear implants. The most common causes of SNHL as head trauma, aging, infections, exposure to excessively loud noise and the use of certain medications.

Mixed Hearing Loss – Mixed hearing loss occurs when someone has both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss. They may have damage to the outer and middle ear as well as the inner ear and auditory nerves. In such cases, treatment first focuses on eliminating the cause of the conductive hearing loss before tackling the SNHL.

Ways To Protect Yourself Against Hearing Loss

Avoid damaging noises – Nearly 22 million US workers are exposed to hazardous noise levels at work annually. Such prolonged exposure to loud sounds can cause irreversible damage to your hearing. Loud noises can damage the tiny, delicate hair cells that line the inner ear. These hair cells send electrical impulses to the brain and any damage to them can result in permanent hearing loss. For this reason, it is advisable to avoid prolonged exposure to noise levels over 80 decibels (the sound of a garbage disposal).

If you work in an environment where loud noises are unavoidable e.g. construction or manufacturing, use earplugs, earmuffs or noise-cancelling headphones to block out most of the noise and to avoid occupational hearing loss.

Turn down the volume – If you like to listen to music through earbuds or headphones, protect your hearing by turning down the volume. Some 1.1 billion teens and young adults worldwide are at risk of noise-induced hearing loss because of the unsafe use of personal audio devices and exposure to damaging levels of sound at concerts, sporting events and nightclubs.

To be safe, follow the 60/60 rule: listen to music with headphones at no more than 60% volume for not more than 60 minutes daily. Even better, substitute earbuds with over-the-year headphones to minimize exposure to loud music. If you are attending a noisy social event, carry some earbuds with you to muffle some of the sounds.

Give your ears a vacation – Another great tip to protect your ears is to give them adequate time to rest and recover after prolonged exposure to loud noise. Think of it as giving them a vacation after attending a concert or going to a loud nightclub. Ears require between 16-48 hours of relative quiet to recover from exposure to loud sounds. This way, they won’t sustain much damage and you can get back to your normal hearing threshold.

Get some exercise – Did you know that exercising is good for your ears? Exercise can even help prevent age-related hearing loss. Cardio exercises like cycling or running increase blood circulation to different parts of the body including the ears. This in turn helps your ears to remain healthy and work to their full potential.

Ask about your medication – Certain medicines such as some diuretics, antibiotics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) like ibuprofen or aspirin can cause hearing loss, tinnitus or loss of balance in some people. They have also been known to exacerbate an existing hearing problem. Such medicines are referred to as ototoxic medications because they are toxic to the ears. Ask your doctor if the drugs you are taking are ototoxic and if they are, ask for the dosage to be safely reduced. Also, consult a medical professional if you experience any changes in your hearing after taking any medications.

Get regular checkups – We recommend that you visit The Hearing Doctors once a year for a regular checkup, even if you aren’t experiencing any symptoms of hearing loss. These annual screenings are important as they allow you to keep tabs on your hearing and take action as soon as changes occur. Additionally, you should get prompt treatment for any ear infections in order to prevent possible hearing loss.

You can find more information about caring for your ears and protecting your hearing on the Hearing & Balance Doctors website.

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