If you have a hearing loss, you are not alone. Over 48 million Americans suffer from some form of hearing loss, and approximately one in three people in the United States between the ages of 65 and 74 has hearing loss. Difficulty hearing makes it hard to hear phones, smoke alarms, and other devices. It makes it hard to respond to warnings, understand valuable advice, and enjoy socializing with family and friends.
Know the Signs of Hearing Loss
Signs and symptoms of hearing loss may include:
- Speech and other sounds are indistinct
- Words are hard to understand, especially in a crowded area
- Trouble hearing consonants
- Frequently asking others to repeat themselves
- Needing to turn up the volume of the television or radio
- Have difficulty hearing high frequencies
- Avoidance of some social settings
- Developing tinnitus
Hearing problems that are ignored or go untreated may deteriorate over time. What can be done to keep your hearing loss from getting worse?
Stay Away From Loud Noises
Loud noise is an everyday occurrence, and it is one of the most common causes of hearing loss. Noise from lawnmowers, motorcycles, and other machinery can damage the inner ear. It also contributes to tinnitus. The louder the sound, the less time you can safely listen to it. Protect yourself from loud noise by turning down the volume whenever possible and avoiding situations that involve loud noise, such as noisy music venues. If you are in a noisy atmosphere, try standing away from the speakers and taking regular breaks from the loudest areas.
Be Careful With The Volume In The Car
It’s fun to sing along with the music blasting, but listening to loud music in a car may damage your hearing.
Wear Ear Protection
Sometimes you can’t avoid loud noises. If that is the case, ear protection is essential. If loud noise is an inevitable part of your work environment, talk to your manager or human resource representative. Ask for appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE.) In other circumstances, use earplugs or noise-canceling headphones. Retro muff style headphones allow you to keep the volume down. Earbud-style headphones and in-the-ear headphones are less effective at drowning out background noise. It is still essential to give your ears a periodic break from headphones.
Other Ways To Protect Your Ears
Cold weather could also affect your hearing. A condition that is known as surfer’s ear, or exostosis of the ear canal, affects many people who participate in water sports that put them in contact with cold water, wind exposure, and lower temperatures. So in chilly weather, wear earmuffs or a hat that covers your ears. Also, if you are playing contact sports, wear a protective helmet.
Take Care Of Your Health
Keeping your body in the best possible condition can keep your hearing loss from getting worse. Some medications can cause damage to your ears. Also, your hearing loss may affect your health in other ways. But recent studies from Johns Hopkins indicate that hearing loss may be linked with other issues, including walking problems, falls, and even dementia.
Know Your Genes
Genetic factors also make some people more susceptible to hearing loss than others. An estimated 35-55% of the causes of age-related hearing loss are genetic. Therefore, it is vital to know as much as possible about your family’s medical history. If there are potential problems, early testing and diagnosis may improve your prognosis.
What Are Your Family And Friends Telling You?
Even if you know the signs of hearing loss, you may not recognize them in yourself. You may think everyone else is mumbling, or that the volume on the television is too low. If your loved ones are telling you that you might have a hearing loss, you should pay attention. It may be time to schedule a hearing test.
Use Your Hearing Aid
If you already have hearing aids, it is essential to use them. Many of the newer styles of hearing aids are not noticeable, so you should not feel self-conscious about wearing them. Wearing your hearing aids regularly will reduce your risk of falls and mental decline. Overall, your quality of life will improve.
Safeguard Your Hearing
Hearing keeps us connected to the world. It helps us communicate and hear warnings if we are in danger. It helps us live without limitations. Whether you have an existing hearing loss or are concerned about a possible hearing loss, it is never too early to start protecting your hearing. Start by simply being aware of situations that may damage your hearing. Then do everything possible to reduce your risk of hearing loss. If you believe you have a hearing loss, you should consult an audiology specialist as soon as possible.
Dr. JJ Martinez served active duty in the United States Marine Corps before receiving his bachelor’s degree from Southeastern Louisiana University in 2005 and his doctoral degree from Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in 2010. Dr. Martinez is a fellow of the American Academy of Audiology and a member of the American Speech Language and Hearing Association.