Many individuals assume hearing loss is a part of the aging process; however, age-related degeneration of the auditory system is only one of many factors that cause hearing loss.
Risk Factors to Hearing Loss
In fact, many cases of hearing loss are entirely preventable. By understanding the risk factors associated with hearing loss, you can avoid dangerous behavior and keep your ears healthy for years to come. Here are some of the common risk factors associated with hearing impairments:
- Noise exposure. Prolonged exposure to dangerous sound levels is the No. 1 cause of hearing loss. Sounds over 85 dB can damage the tiny hair cells lining our inner ears, which are responsible for transmitting sound to the brain. By using hearing protection, you can avoid unsafe sound levels and prevent a permanent loss of hearing.
- Over-the-counter medications. To the surprise of many, some medications have ototoxic properties, meaning they have a toxic effect on the the auditory system. Check with you doctor about your medications to ensure they aren’t harmful to your hearing.
- Smoking. A history of smoking can contribute to hearing loss. In addition to the ototoxic chemical present in cigarettes, smoking also narrows your blood vessels and reduces the flow of oxygen to the ear. This increases the likelihood that hearing loss and tinnitus will develop. A clear correlation also exists between secondhand smoke and hearing disorders.
- Diabetes. Diabetes and loss of hearing are two of the most common chronic health conditions in America, and the two conditions also intersect. Studies have shown that hearing loss is twice as likely to occur in individuals with diabetes. This is possible due high glucose levels causing harm to the blood vessels in the inner ear.
Summer Hearing Loss Risks
While the above risk factors are more general, some are season or activity related. In preparation for summer, below are steps you can take to keep your ears safe and prevent long-term damage.
- Leave the fireworks to the professionals. Fireworks are synonymous with the 4th of July, but they represent an extreme noise hazard and should be left to the professionals. The bang from a single firecracker at close range can cause immediate and permanent hearing damage. When watching fireworks, enjoy them from a distance. Earplugs will provide an extra level of hearing protection without detracting from the festivities.
- Take measures to protect against swimmer’s ear. There’s nothing more refreshing than a cool swim on a hot day, but when water enters the ear canals it can lead to a painful infection known as swimmer’s ear. To protect against this, invest in a pair of swimmer’s plugs. Dry your ears thoroughly after swimming, and make sure to tilt your head to the side to drain any residual water from your ear canals. Avoid swimming in water where bacterial counts are high (look for signs posted at the local beach).
- Limit your time in noisy environments. Take steps to limit the length of time you spend in noisy environments. When participating in noisy activities, such as summer music festivals, make sure to give yourself quiet breaks. Musician earplugs provide an extra level of protection without hindering your listening experience.
If you or a loved one is at risk for losing your hearing, we recommend visiting an audiology professional. Even if there are no obvious signs of an auditory impairment, some degree of hearing loss may already exist. By treating the condition early, you can stop the further deterioration of your hearing and prevent complications due to untreated loss from arising. If you’d like to schedule a consultation with one of the best audiologists in Houston, contact our team today! Our clinic provides a variety of patient-focused services including hearing evaluations, tinnitus management, hearing aid fittings and the treatment of vestibular disorders.