Though it’s difficult for many people to imagine living in a world in which their hearing has been compromised, hearing loss is a significant medical issue that affects millions of people across the globe.
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, among adults ages 65 and older in the U.S., 12.3 percent of men and nearly 14 percent of women are affected by tinnitus, a ringing or buzzing in the ears that can be intermittent or continuous and can vary in loudness. Some are quick to assume hearing loss is a natural side effect of aging, and while the relationship between age and hearing loss is strong, there are steps to protect and maintain hearing well into the golden years.
Limit workplace exposure to noise. Overexposure to noise while on the job is a leading cause of severe hearing loss, yet millions of people encounter hazardous levels of noise during a typical workday. For example, mechanics are routinely exposed to loud noise from power tools or motor vehicle engines. This does not mean mechanics should take up a new trade, but they should approach the workday with a goal of protecting their hearing. Mechanics and other professionals who are routinely exposed to workplace noise can wear protectors that cover their ears or earplugs that reduce the impact of noise on their ears.
Discuss side effects of medications with your doctor before taking them. Many people may be surprised to learn that certain medications can cause hearing loss. Some cancer drugs and certain antibiotics can cause hearing loss, including loss that may be permanent. In addition, when used regularly, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, aspirin and acetaminophen can increase a person’s risk of hearing loss. Some side effects related to hearing loss may disappear when a person stops taking the medication that is contributing to those side effects, but that’s not always the case, so it’s best to discuss any potential side effects with your physician.
Be careful when enjoying recreational activities that put hearing in harm’s way. Some celebratory activities are augmented by fireworks, and while fireworks may provide some stunning visual appeal to celebrations, that appeal could be coming at the expense of your hearing. Hearing loss is sometimes caused by exposure to loud and sudden noises, such as those made by fireworks. When attending celebrations that include fireworks, stay as far away from the fireworks as possible and wear earplugs if necessary.
Shooting enthusiasts may also be putting themselves in harm’s way. When visiting a shooting range or going on a hunting trip, protect your ears with headphones or ear plugs. The sudden pop of a gun or rifle can cause irreparable ear damage if you haven’t already taken steps to protect your ears.
Limit use of personal music players. Though it’s hard to predict how many of today’s young people will suffer hearing loss down the road, it’s fair to assume hearing-loss figures will be on the rise. That’s thanks in large part to increased usage of personal music players and smartphones, and their accompanying earbuds and headphones, that allow music fans to crank up their favorite tunes at all hours of the day regardless of location. The louder and longer a person listens to music through headphones or earbuds, the greater that person’s risk of hearing loss may be. Those who want to protect their hearing for the long haul should limit their use of headphones and earbuds and be sure to keep the volume down when they are using such devices.