Approximately 48 million people in the United States suffer from some degree of hearing loss according to the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). Hearing loss occurs if a person is unable to hear sounds within a normal hearing range between 20 and 20,000 Hz.
Decibels (dB) measure how loud a sound is. The normal hearing range for the loudness of sound is 0 to 20 dB. This means if you can only hear sounds above this range, such as at 26-40 dB, you are said to have mild hearing loss. You have moderate hearing loss if you can only hear sounds closer to 50 dB. Click here to get an online ear test.
In this article, we will look at some of the ways you can prevent damage to your ears and look after your hearing.
Studies have found that smokers are 1.69 times at risk of having hearing loss compared to non-smokers. Tobacco smoke contains harmful substances such as carbon monoxide and nicotine that lower the oxygen concentrations in the blood causing constriction of the blood vessels in the inner ear.
In addition to this, smoking can cause blockages in the eustachian tube causing obstruction, pressure and hearing loss. Nicotine can also damage neurotransmitters in the cochlear nerve, which let the brain know which sound you are hearing. By quitting smoking, you can significantly reduce your chances of developing hearing loss.
Check Your Medications
According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) there are more than 200 medications that can damage the structures of the inner ear, resulting in hearing loss. Such drugs include Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen, quinine, antibiotics and certain cancer chemotherapy drugs. Signs of ototoxicity include tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, as well as the following:
- Loss of coordination
- Feeling disoriented
- Nausea or vomiting
- Objects appearing to vibrate or jump (Oscillopsia)
- Pressure in the ears
Make sure to ask your doctor about any medications you are taking with regards to ototoxicity and the potential to affect your hearing.
Avoid Exposure to Loud Sounds
Noise-induced hearing loss can occur from a number of sources such as power tools, firecrackers, sirens, gunshots or explosives and high-volume music. Do what you can to avoid exposure to such loud sounds and where feasible, protect your ears with ear muffs or ear plugs. Tips to prevent noise-induced hearing loss include:
- Turning the volume down on your TV and radio
- Taking breaks at music concerts or other venues where exposed to loud sounds
- Keep your distance from loud sound sources such as speakers
- Before buying appliances consider their noise ratings.
Manage Blood Sugar Levels
Blood sugar levels that are either too high or too low can cause nerve damage leading to hearing loss. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) people with diabetes are twice as likely to develop hearing loss, so managing blood sugar levels is vital.
Managing your weight, exercising regularly, eating a healthy, balanced diet with a low glycemic index and drinking water rather than juices and sodas can help keep your blood sugar levels in check.
You can look after your hearing by following the steps outlined in this article.