Seems like we’re always trying to stay young. From wrinkle creams to Botox to special diets to spin class–we spend countless hours every day doing what we can to slow the steady march of aging. And yet, even with all that effort (and all those hours), we tend to avoid doing one easy thing that could actually work: protecting our ears.
Hearing loss is often one of those “signs of aging” that we tend to think of as inevitable. But it’s not that simple. By protecting your ears (and treating them with a bit of kindness along the way), you can help prevent damage and keep your hearing in great shape. And great hearing can have significant anti-aging benefits as the years go on.
Hearing and aging
When we talk about “aging” we don’t usually mean the actual passage of time (which is a little counter-intuitive, we’ll grant). Instead, “aging” typically refers to the presentation of certain physical, mental, or emotional characteristics that we associate with getting older. Joint pain is a great example of this. When your knees start to hurt, you might associate that with “getting old.” But it’s not age by itself that causes the issue (your daily 5-mile run might have something to do with it, too).
The same is true of many kinds of hearing loss. As you age, damage accumulates. And in most cases, it’s the accumulation of damage that causes the actual hearing degeneration. And that’s when things can start to snowball. Untreated hearing loss has been linked to several other signs of aging:
- Untreated hearing loss might cause you to self-isolate from friends or family.
- Research has also shown a strong link between untreated hearing loss and depression and anxiety.
- When hearing impairments are unnoticed and untreated they can sometimes hasten the onset of other mental health issues, including dementia.
- In some cases, the mental strain involved in trying to hear can cause issues like memory loss or insomnia. And that can make you feel like you’re aging in a particularly profound way.
So how do I fight age-related hearing loss?
When you combat the “signs of aging” in your ears, you’re really placing an emphasis on preventing damage. And thankfully, there are a number of ways to accomplish that. For example, you can:
- Avoid loud noises as much as possible. And when you can’t avoid high volume areas, wear hearing protection. So when you go see that concert with your favorite musician, be sure to wear earplugs.
- If you happen to work in a rather noisy environment, wear hearing protection. Modern ear muffs have incredible technology that can let you hear voices with clarity while filtering out loud, damaging environmental sounds.
- Raise your awareness. It’s not just the painfully loud sounds that can cause damage. Moderate noise for longer durations can cause damage to your ears, too.
All of these steps will help protect your ears. Making sure you undergo hearing screenings with regular frequency can help you catch hearing loss before it’s even noticeable. Even if your hearing is perfectly fine, a screening will still be able to provide a useful baseline to compare against future results.
Keep your ears healthy with treatment
We live in a noisy world. Your ability to prevent damage is profound, but you may eventually notice some hearing loss despite your best efforts. If that’s the case, it’s vital that you seek treatment as quickly as possible. A good pair of hearing aids can help prevent some of the so-called age-related issues related to hearing impairments.
You can maybe think of hearing aids as a facelift for your ears: something to make your ears function a little more youthfully. And that can help keep depression, dementia, and other issues at bay. (The analogy isn’t perfect, as hearing aids are essential–and a facelift isn’t; but you get the idea.)
Wrinkle creams might help you look younger. But if you really want to fight aging and feel a bit more youthful, your best bet is to protect your ears and treat your hearing loss.