‘Tis the season! For New Year’s resolutions, that is. It’s hard not to see the new year as a chance to reshape priorities and begin new habits. Most of us chose at least one health related resolution such as working out more or eating healthier, but the one thing we should all prioritize is to protect our hearing!
All about Hearing Loss
Per the National Institutes of Health (NIH), one in three adults between the ages of 65 and 74 have some degree of hearing loss. Hearing loss has many possible causes with the most common being age-related. To better understand prevention and early treatment, let’s first look at the different types of hearing loss.
There are three primary types of hearing loss: sensorineural, conductive, and mixed.
- Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common. It occurs in the inner ear and is usually permanent. It can be caused by age, noise exposure, medications, diseases and disorders, and others. Hearing loss from age and noise exposure is not reversible.
- Conductive hearing loss occurs in the middle and outer ear. It can cause obstructions, infections, and other issues impacting the ear canal. If the hearing loss is caused by an obstruction such as ear wax, it is possible to recover it by removing the obstruction.
- Mixed hearing loss, as the name suggests, is a combination of the other two types of hearing loss. For example, if someone has age-related hearing loss along with a blockage from ear wax they would have mixed hearing loss.
One of the most common misconceptions regarding hearing loss is what people expect it to sound like. It is often expected that hearing loss will sound like a total reduction in volume, similar to turning down the volume on a television. However most hearing loss impacts various frequencies of sound differently. For example, in age-related hearing loss, the higher frequencies are impacted while the lower frequencies remain unchanged. This variation in frequencies will make sound more jumbled and harder to understand.
Hearing tests are recommended for all adults, regardless of any signs or symptoms of hearing loss. With hearing loss, a hearing test provides a baseline for hearing health providers to use moving forward. For those with hearing loss, hearing tests, provide the information needed to program hearing aids.
Hearing aids are the most common form of treatment for age-related hearing loss. When you take a hearing test, both frequency and volume are tested giving the precise correction needed for digital hearing aids.
Early treatment is crucial as untreated hearing loss has been linked to higher risks of both dementia and cognitive decline.
Protect your Hearing
Now that we know a bit more about hearing loss and early treatment, what about the prevention of hearing loss? Depending on the root cause, there are more than a few ways to make sure you are protecting your hearing.
- Ear protection– Noise exposure is another common cause of hearing loss. Even everyday noises such as traffic, lawnmowers, and kitchen food blenders can cause hearing loss if there is repeated or continuous exposure. Also, make sure to wear ear protections such as ear plugs or headphones if attending a loud event such as a concert or sporting event.
- Medications– A lesser known cause of hearing loss is medications. Ototoxicity, literally translated to ear poison, is a side effect to many common medications. Even over the counter medications such as ibuprofen can have an effect on your hearing if not taken as directed. Make sure to only take medications as ordered by your healthcare provider or as directed for over the counter medications.
- Diseases– There are numerous diseases that can lead to hearing loss. A major one that is fairly common is diabetes. Managing your health with your healthcare provider, such as controlling your blood sugar levels with diabetes, will be important to protect your hearing in the long run.
As you can see, there are many aspects to hearing loss and protecting your hearing. When making your New Year’s resolutions, make sure to prioritize your hearing by making an appointment with an audiologist for a baseline hearing test and discuss prevention and early treatment.