Hearing loss is a common condition that affects an estimated 36 million Americans. It is not just confined to older patients; people of all ages can develop hearing loss. Recognizing the signs of hearing loss, and taking preventive measures in potentially dangerous situations, may help you avoid the onset of hearing loss, and keep your communication skills sharp.
Common Causes of Hearing Loss
It is true that the natural aging process can lead to loss. Over time, the ability to hear higher frequency sounds gradually diminishes, affecting speech perception. This condition, known as presbycusis, affects 1/3 of adults aged 65 or older, and up to ½ of those over 75.
More common still is noise-induced hearing loss. The result of prolonged exposure to environmental noise (rock concerts, power tools, motorcyles) – or occasionally a single loud sound, such as a gunshot or explosion – it can strike people of all ages.
Other causes of hearing loss include trauma to the ears, heredity, diabetes, excess earwax, hypertension, disease, smoking and ototoxic drugs.
Tips for the Prevention of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is measured in degrees based on severity, and ranges from normal to profound. Age-related loss cannot be prevented, but there are steps you can take to reduce the odds of developing other types. Your best bet is to wear hearing protection when participating in activities where noise is a factor, either in the workplace or recreationally. Anything over 85 decibels is considered hazardous to your hearing. Custom earplugs are available for musicians, swimmers and hunters. When listening to music through headphones, keep the volume turned down. If you’re a smoker, quit; tobacco constricts the blood vessels, which can lead to hearing loss.