We Need To Talk About Hearing Loss

We should all be talking about hearing loss, and how the impact that hearing loss can have on someone's life can be profound. Being able to hear well is essential for many things in life - family connections, social interaction, and productivity in the workplace, and when that all-important sense does not quite work as it should, it can really affect someones mental health. 

Thankfully, helping hearing loss can be relatively straightforward. Medical advancements and technology mean that more than ever can be done to help you if you suffer from hearing issues -for instance, use hearing aids to improve your quality of life. However, what we need to be doing is talking about how it is not a stand-alone disability and is linked to everything we do every single day, and what we can do to prevent hearing loss. 

It is thought that many people wait up to a decade before acknowledging that they are having trouble hearing and get a hearing aid. Why is this? For many people, it is denial and a case of burying their hand in the sand. They may see it as a fear of getting older or being weaker. For other people, the loss of hearing is so gradual that they may not be aware of the insidious progression of it.

However, failing to get hearing tested and corrected as early as possible may actually contribute to aging faster. Hearing loss is associated with earlier onset of dementia, earlier mortality, and six times the rate of falls compared to those with normal hearing. As well as that, there is the isolation that hearing loss can bring - not being able to interact as easily with those around them, which can be incredibly lonely. On top of all that,  when the input is diminished, the brain loses the ability to distinguish sounds, which means that the person has to “re-learn” to hear when she or he finally gets a hearing aid.

Hearing loss, which we have already discussed, can be sorted relatively easily, is a largely hidden problem, even though it affects a large percentage of the population. It is thought that one-third of people over the age of 60, and two-thirds of those over the age of 70 have hearing loss to some degree and that up to 15% of school-age children have hearing loss. It is little wonder when we consider our everyday exposure to loud noises such as rock concerts, sports stadiums, stereos in cars, earphones, jet engines and the other loud noises we hear all day, every day. It is no longer something that older people suffer from - it is happening to people at a much younger age now, and as a result, we can’t stress enough the importance of protecting our hearing and preventing hearing loss from the loud noises in our environment — and getting one’s hearing tested early.

Obviously, in some cases, hearing loss can't be prevented, but in many cases, it can be. Here are some of the things that you can do to protect your hearing health:

1) Use hearing protection

One of the biggest causes of hearing is loss is constant exposure to loud noise in the workplace or during leisure activities. The easiest way of preventing this is by using ear protectors. If you still need to be able to converse or hear particular sounds, you can purchase specialist earplugs, such as those that musicians use, that help to filter out loud noises while still allowing you to have a conversation.

2) Turn the volume down

We all love listening to music, but if you have it turned up too loud, particularly if you are wearing earbuds, you are not going to be doing your hearing any good. If you do like to listen to music, keeping the 60/60 rule in mind can help. This involves listening to music with headphones at no more than 60% volume for no more than 60 minutes a day.

3) Give your ears time to recover

If you are exposed to loud noises for a prolonged period of time, like at a party,  concert or a bar, your ears need time to recover. If you can, step outside for a few minutes every so often in order to let them rest.

What’s more, researchers have found that your ears need an average of 16 hours of quiet to recover from one loud night out, so leave the headphones at home for a day or two. 

4) Don't use cotton ear swabs

Lots of people use cotton swabs to clean wax out of their ears, but this is advised against. A small amount of wax in the ear canal is perfectly normal and is actually beneficial for hearing health. Ears are a self-cleaning part of the body, and wax prevents dust and other particles which can be harmful from entering the canal. Inserting anything small into your ear can also risk damaging your eardrum. 

If you have excess wax, you can clean around the canal gently with a damp towel. You could also use ear wax removal solution over the course of a few nights. This softens the wax so that it will eventually flow out on its own. The best solution is always to seek a professional opinion and care when possible.

5) Have Your Hearing Checked Regularly

Ask your doctor to incorporate hearing screenings into your regular checkups. Because hearing loss develops gradually, it is also recommended that you have annual hearing consultations with an ear health professional. That way, you will be more likely to recognize signs of hearing loss and be able to take action as soon as you do.

Don't wait for hearing loss to creep up on you or take you by surprise; as soon as you notice the first signs of deterioration, get it checked, and dow hat you can to avoid damaging your hearing wherever possible.

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