For those who suffer from it, hearing loss is more than just a nuisance. For older adults, it can lead to additional issues such as depression, anxiety, increased risk of falls, and even dementia.
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, about 25 percent of those age 65 to 74 and about 50 percent of those age 75 and older have disabling hearing loss.
To protect your hearing, understand common causes. Factors such as aging and constant exposure to loud noises can greatly contribute to hearing loss, as well as conditions such as diabetes, head injuries, infections, sleep apnea, and medications such as certain antibiotics and chemotherapy drugs. Also, not wearing a hearing aid when you should can cause additional hearing loss, according to a March 2017 article in the AARP magazine.
Take the following measures to preserve your hearing, even at an early age:
Reduce noise exposure. Be aware of what increases your risk, such as loud music, lawn mowers, and leaf blowers. Also, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), occupational hearing loss is one of the most common work-related illnesses in the United States. CDC recommends reducing noise levels as much as possible, as well as wearing proper ear protection such as earmuffs to help block out noise.
Take listening breaks. Walk away from loud noises and take breaks to reduce exposure time.
Wear headphones versus earbuds. If you cover your ears using headphones, more background noise will be cancelled out and you will be able to hear better at lower volumes.
Have your hearing tested. If you know you suffered some hearing loss, you can then take steps to prevent further loss.
If you suspect that you may be suffering from hearing loss, consult a doctor who has specific training in ear care and hearing disorders (an otolaryngologist or otologist) and who is qualified and licensed by the Medical Board of California. If purchasing a hearing aid, make sure to check the status of the dispenser’s license on the Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology and Hearing Aid Dispensers Board’s website.
For more information about hearing loss and hearing loss prevention, read the spring 2016 Consumer Connection article “Safe and Sound: Protecting Your Ears.”