Imagine a picture in your mind of someone who needs hearing aids. Do you see them with gray hair, reading glasses, and a cane? They could never be a middle aged guy saving up for his kid’s college tuition, right? Wrong. Unfortunately, when it comes to hearing loss, more and more adults experience trouble long before they expect they should. According to AARP, 1 in 5 people will experience hearing loss in their 50s, and the American Academy of Audiology says that by 60, 1 in 3 will have hearing loss. If you fall into this age range, here’s what hearing loss might mean to you.
- You work in a noisy industry. If you work in manufacturing, carpentry/construction or nightlife or work at a shooting range, airport, or mechanic shop, you may put your ears at risk every day. Without proper ear protection, overexposure to loud noises can destroy the tiny hairs inside your ear. While you won’t notice the hearing loss all at once, you may reach 50 years old and find that your hearing isn’t what it used to be. Find a way to mitigate damage because treating hearing loss is an option, but the damage is still permanent.
- You listen to loud music. It’s common for kids to listen to music too loudly for a prolonged amount of time, and these habits will eventually catch up to them. By 50, you’ve had plenty of time to do damage to your ears. The general rule of thumb is to listen to your music using headphones at no higher than 60% volume for 60 minutes. This can also cause what is called tinnitus, or ringing in the ears. Since you can’t go back in time and change the past, you can only adopt healthy listening habits for the future.
- You have diabetes, high blood pressure, or take certain medications. According to the American Diabetes Association, those with diabetes are twice as likely to experience hearing loss, though the reason why is still unknown. We do know high blood pressure causes hearing loss due to the increased risk of inner ear hemorrhages and changes in the cells in the body and ears. In terms of medications, there are reportedly 200 that cause issues within the ear. These medications are labeled as “ototoxic” and should be monitored. Check the American Speech Language Hearing Association for a complete list.
- You smoke cigarettes. Nicotine and carbon monoxide go hand in hand with smoking cigarettes. They also work together to constrict your blood vessels, including the ones leading to your ears. Without proper blood flow, the tiny hairs in your ears run out of oxygen and die off. You are 70% more likely to experience hearing loss if you smoke regularly.
- You are under a lot of stress. A certain amount of stress is good for the body and mind. It pushes us to accomplish great things and better ourselves. However, too much stress can cause things like headaches, digestion issues, and hearing loss. Make sure to get enough sleep, regularly exercise, and find ways to relax.
- You need hearing aids! Don’t be ashamed to get help. Many Americans wait too long to get hearing aids because they are embarrassed or feel a stigma around hearing loss. Just remember – you aren’t the only one your age wearing them! Hearing aids are incredibly helpful and just might change your life.
By: Diana Ford
Sources: AARP, International Tinnitus Journal, ADA, ASHA