Chances are you’ve already noticed you don’t hear as well as you once did. Hearing loss often progresses due to decisions you make without realizing they’re impacting your hearing.

Many types of hearing loss are preventable with a few simple lifestyle changes. Let’s explore six surprising secrets that will help you maintain your hearing.

1. Manage your blood pressure

It’s not okay if your blood pressure stays high. A study found individuals with above-average blood pressure are 52% more likely to develop hearing loss, not to mention other health issues.

Prevent damage to your hearing by taking steps to lower your blood pressure. Don’t ignore high blood pressure or wait to see a doctor. Blood pressure management includes proper diet, exercise, stress management, and following your doctor’s orders.

2. Stop smoking

Here’s another reason to quit: Smokers are 15% more likely to develop hearing loss. Even more shocking: Individuals who are regularly exposed to second-hand smoke are 28% more likely to develop hearing problems. Even if you leave the room, smoke lingers for long periods of time with harmful consequences.

If you smoke, protect your hearing and consider quitting. If you spend time with a smoker, take steps to minimize your exposure to second-hand smoke.

3. Keep your diabetes under control

One in four adults is either pre-diabetic or diabetic. A pre-diabetic individual is highly likely to develop diabetes within 5 years unless they make serious lifestyle changes.

High blood sugar damages blood vessels, which makes it very difficult for them to efficiently transport nutrients. A diabetic person is more than twice as likely to experience hearing loss compared to a non-diabetic person.

If you have diabetes, take the steps necessary to properly manage it. If you are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, protect your hearing by making lifestyle changes to prevent it.

4. Lose some weight

This isn’t about body image or feeling great about yourself. It’s about your health. As your Body Mass Index (BMI) rises, so does your risk of hearing loss and other health conditions. A mildly obese woman (with a 30 to 34 BMI) has a 17% increased risk of developing hearing loss. For a person with a BMI of 40 (moderate obesity), the risk goes up to 25%.

Take steps to shed that extra weight. If you don’t exercise regularly, something as simple as walking for 30 minutes each day can reduce your risk of hearing loss and prolong your life.

5. Don’t overuse OTC medications

Some over-the-counter (OTC) medications can cause hearing loss. The risk increases when these medicines are taken regularly over prolonged periods of time.

Common over-the-counter medicines that affect hearing include aspirin, NSAIDs (such as naproxen, ibuprofen), and acetaminophen. Take these medications sparingly and consult your doctor if you’re taking them regularly.

If you’re taking the recommended dose for the occasional headache, studies indicate you’ll probably be okay. Taking them every day, however, increases the risk of hearing loss by as much as 40% for men.

Always follow your doctor’s orders. But if you’re using these medications each day to manage chronic pain or thin your blood, talk to your doctor about lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your dependence on OTC drugs.

6. Eat more broccoli

Broccoli is packed with iron, in addition to important nutrients such as vitamins C and K. Iron is integral to a healthy heart and proper blood circulation. Iron helps your blood transport nutrients and oxygen to cells to keep them nourished and healthy.

If you’re a vegetarian or eat very little meat, it’s important that you consume enough plant-based iron. You’re more likely to be iron deficient because the iron found in plants is less bioavailable than the iron found in meat.

Pennsylvania State University researchers studied more than 300,000 individuals. The researchers found participants with anemia (severe iron deficiency) were twice as likely to develop sensorineural hearing loss as those without the condition. Sensorineural hearing loss is the scientific name for the permanent hearing loss associated with aging.

The inner ear has tiny hair cells that pick up sounds and communicate with the brain to transmit the volume and frequency of those sounds. If these hair cells die due to poor circulation or other complications arising from iron deficiency, they won’t grow back.

You’re never too young to get your hearing tested by a hearing specialist, so don’t wait until it gets worse. Prevent hearing loss by applying these simple secrets to your daily life.

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