Hearing loss is the third most common health condition affecting older adults affecting one in three 65 years and older and half of those 75 years old and beyond. However, it is important to understand that hearing loss can happen to anyone of any age. There are many risks to our hearing that we may face every day without even realizing it. Hearing loss is a permanent condition which starts as a communication disorder, but can quickly affect your emotional, cognitive, and physical health irreversibly if not addressed immediately. Identifying the everyday risks to our hearing is the first step in prevention—the next step is to act. Here are some common everyday instances where our hearing may be at risk and what you can do to lower your risk of hearing loss.
Protect Your Head
One cause of hearing loss that surprises many is impact to your head. When you sustain a severe impact to the head it can result in a traumatic brain injury (TBI) which can damage the fragile inner ear, leading to temporary or permanent hearing damage. There are an estimated 1.7 to 3.8 million traumatic brain injuries each year in the United States, according to the CDC, of which 10 percent arise due to sports and recreational activities. Falls are perhaps the common cause of TBIs in both children 14 and younger and people 65 and older. An estimated 55 percent of TBIs in children and 81 percent in seniors are believed to be caused by falls. Meanwhile 14 percent of TBIs are caused by automobile accidents in the US. While you can’t always predict when a TBI will occur, causing serious damage to your brain and your hearing, you can take precautions such as wearing protective gear when playing high risk sports such as biking, skateboarding, and football, as well as making sure to wear your seatbelt every time you get in an automobile.
Monitor Your Medications
You can always trust the medications offered to you by a doctor or the FDA, rights? In truth, it is estimated that there are more than 200 medications and chemicals that are known to cause hearing and balance problems. These chemicals present in some everyday over the counter and prescription medications are known as ototoxic as they can constrict blood vessels causing cell and nerve damage throughout the body, including the fragile cells of the inner ear. These cells are the sole delivery system from our ears to our brain. Common prescription medications to monitor include some diuretics, antibiotics and chemotherapy medications, while the most common over the counter medications which increase your risk of hearing loss include common household painkillers such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen. If you must take any ototoxic medications it is important to weigh out the benefits of the medication with the risk of hearing loss. If you are at a high risk, ask your doctor for an alternative.
Noise Induced Hearing Loss
One of the biggest risks to hearing for people of all ages is exposure to loud noise. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) projects that 1.1 billion people 12-35 may be at risk for noise induced hearing loss due to exposure to excessively loud sounds from entertainment venues, sports arenas and through listening to media via headphones. It is important to look at the sources of noise you encounter every day. For instance, if you work in a loud job, this poses an extra threat due to long hours of exposure, day after day, week after week and so on. It is the responsibility of your employer to test for excessively loud conditions in your workplace and offer hearing protection if an issue is pressing. However, do you really want to rely on your employer to protect you from a permanent condition?!
Do your own testing!
The loudness or volume of sound is measured in decibels. If sounds in your workplace surpass 85 dBA then it is important to insist on wearing hearing protection. An exposure of 85 decibels will damage your hearing after a consistent 8 hour exposure—often the length of an average work shift in the United States. As the decibel level increases the exposure time decreases rather quickly. For every increase of three decibels the exposure time is cut in half!
Schedule a Hearing Exam
If you are at risk for hearing loss, don’t let it go unaddressed! Schedule a hearing exam with us today and find out what we can do to support better hearing for you!