We often think of hearing loss as a game of chance. Some people may have great hearing late into life, while others might experience age-related hearing loss in their 50s. There is not consensus on why this is the case, but one thing we know is that hearing loss does seem to have a genetic component. In fact, even the degree to which noise causes hearing loss in individual people appears to be genetically determined to a certain degree.
It’s also been shown that nearly 100% of centenarians demonstrate some degree of hearing loss, suggesting that if we live long enough, we will all encounter hearing loss somewhere along the line.
But it’s not all bad news!
While genes and aging do play a role in how much hearing loss we will have and when it will occur, there are several modifiable risk factors that have been identified in recent decades. While keeping healthy habits cannot guarantee that you’ll hear perfectly for your entire life, it’s likely that they’ll keep you hearing better for longer, and reduce the amount of hearing loss you eventually have. Besides that, these suggestions will have benefits that extend to your whole body and mind, so “listen up!”
Maintain Good Cardiac Health
High blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease and other cardiovascular issues can prevent the proper blood flow that keeps the sensitive parts of your ears functioning well. In fact, age-related hearing loss that progresses unusually quickly can even be an indicator of an underlying cardiovascular condition.
This is just one reason it’s a good idea to get regular hearing tests. The Better Hearing Institute, a non-profit organization, recommends getting a hearing test once every decade until age 50, and once every three years thereafter. Those who are at a higher risk for hearing loss due to family history or occupation should be tested more frequently.
Drink Responsibly and Quit Smoking
While some alcohol use does not seem to have any negative effects on long-term health, heavy alcohol use has been shown to damage hearing over time. Toxins build up in the ears and damage the delicate stereocilia inside the cochlea, leading to sensorineural hearing loss.
Smoking of any kind is statistically shown to have an impact on hearing loss. The more you smoke, the more hearing loss you are likely to have. Even second-hand smoke can damage hearing, and even damage a child’s hearing in utero.
Manage Diabetes Effectively
Diabetes increases the risk of hearing loss twofold. Similar in the way that high blood pressure has a deleterious effect on hearing health, diabetes can damage the cells in your inner ear if it is not kept under control. Follow your doctor’s orders on how best to manage diabetes.
Exercise and Reduce Stress
Exercise has been shown to improve just about every bodily system, while also boosting your mood and helping to manage stress. Cardiovascular exercise is especially important. When you improve your blood flow, your ears get more of the nutrients and oxygen they need. Just remember to keep your workout music at as low a volume level as possible! Certain weightlifting practices are also shown to have potentially damaging effects on hearing, as well, so take it easy!
Meditation, taking time for yourself, walking in nature, and other means of reducing stress are also important to your long-term hearing health. Reducing stress can also have immediate positive effects on tinnitus if you suffer from ringing in the ears.
A study by the Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that those who closely followed an anti-inflammatory diet, such as the Alternate Mediterranean Diet (AMED) or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), were at a significantly reduced risk of hearing loss over a four-year period. These diets are not only loaded with delicious, healthy, sustainable food options, but they also have huge physical benefits beyond hearing health. You can expect to have more energy day-to-day, and to have improved overall health.
Protect Your Ears
Always wear hearing protection when you’re in an unsafe sonic environment. Any sound level over 85 dBA (decibels A-weighted) can cause permanent hearing loss after about 8 hours of exposure. For every 3 additional dBA, the time it takes for hearing loss to set in is cut in half. If you’re unsure about the noise levels you’re experiencing, you can download an SPL (sound pressure level) meter app for your smartphone that will tell you how loud your environment is.
Hearing Tests with the Hearing Health Center of Houston
Whether you think you might have hearing loss or you’re simply due for a hearing test, make an appointment with our expert audiologists! It’s never too late to start keeping track of your hearing health. We provide comprehensive hearing health services and look forward to helping you hear at your best.