One in every three people 65 years or older suffers from a degree of hearing loss, according to the Hearing Loss Association of America.
Hearing deficits related to aging amount to the breakdown of many delicate hair cells in the cochlea, the inner ear, that move when sound hits them. Loud sounds play a big part in that process, however. It’s the little things you do now that can save those tiny hairs, reducing the danger of hearing loss as a person ages. There is no guarantee that you won’t be that one in three who experiences some hearing loss, but the odds are in your favor if you take steps to protect your ears now. Consider three simple things you can do to lower your risk of hearing loss.
1. Do a home noise evaluation
Evaluating your home environment is a good place to start. Try to figure out what things in your home might expose your ears to uncomfortable noise levels. For example, what is the normal TV volume in your home? How about your tunes? Do you use headphones to listen to them?
When doing your evaluation, make a pledge to lose the headphones. Sound travels in waves. Headphones and earbuds introduce those waves directly into the ear canal. It’s a little like the difference shooting a gun from point-blank range instead of from 100 feet away. By putting headphones on, you are exposing your ears to sound waves that are much stronger than they should be and damage the intricate components of your ears in the process.
Consider a few other things you might be doing at home to expose your ears to loud noise. Maybe you are into woodworking, for example, or enjoy another craft that requires loud tools. It’s the things like mowing the lawn that takes the most toll, though. What’s the solution? It’s not that you have to stop doing these things that you love. Just enjoy them while wearing proper ear protection like noise-dampening ear muffs.
2. Exercise regularly
Exercise isn’t just good for your heart – it’s good for your ears, as well. Regular workouts are your best defense against chronic illnesses that can affect your hearing later in life, such as heart disease or high cholesterol. It doesn’t really matter what kind of exercise you choose, so go out and have some fun shooting hoops or going for a swim. Just make sure to meet the recommended standards. For adults, that means about 150 minutes a week of moderate to intense aerobic activity along with strength training at least two days a week.
3. Get regular evaluations and hearing tests
Like most things, the earlier you catch problems that might affect your ears, the better. That means seeing your doctor regularly and going to an ear specialist if necessary. For most people, it will also mean the occasional professional hearing test. Get the first one as early in life as possible. This can serve as a baseline as you grow older. When you get additional tests every few years, you will start to see how your hearing is changing. If you notice a drop, medical intervention might be able to slow or even stop the hearing loss progression.
Going to the doctor at least once a year for an evaluation with also help you manage your ear health. Certain kinds of medications can damage your hearing, and that’s something a doctor would pick up on during your visit.
There is no fool-proof way to ensure you don’t have hearing loss later in life, but a little forward-thinking will certainly improve your odds of enjoying your golden years with the best hearing possible.