Hearing loss is a common condition affecting millions of people and can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life. While hearing loss may be caused by various factors, including genetic predisposition, aging, and exposure to loud noise, the good news is that you can take steps to prevent or minimize the progression of hearing loss.
How Hearing Loss Impacts Your Life
Our ears consist of delicate structures. Sound waves enter the ear and make the eardrum vibrate. These vibrations are transmitted to the inner ear. Inside the cochlea, hair cells convert the vibrations into electrical signals sent to the brain for interpretation.
Many things can affect the functioning of these structures, including aging, genetics, loud noises, illness, and certain drugs, leading to hearing loss.
Untreated and unaddressed hearing loss can have significant impacts on daily life.
Difficulties in Social Settings
One of the most significant impacts of hearing loss is how it complicates social interactions.
Many social settings take place in noisy environments like restaurants or require gathering in numbers, like birthday parties, dinner parties, holiday celebrations, etc.
For people experiencing hearing loss, it can be difficult to hear conversations over the background noise. Similarly, tracking an active conversation between multiple people may be difficult.
The unfortunate reality is that many people with hearing loss end up avoiding social settings. It can be inconvenient and embarrassing to miss parts of what is happening around you, and as such, it can be easier to stay home. Of course, doing so can lead to social isolation, depression, loneliness, and anxiety.
Reduced Alertness and Personal Safety
With untreated hearing loss, hearing alarms, alerts, warnings, and even approaching vehicles may be difficult. Failure to hear these warning signals or environmental cues, can decrease personal safety and increase the risk of injury.
Similarly, failure to properly hear public announcements, like those in an airport, subway, or train station, can lead to missed connections, confusion, and disorientation.
Reduced Job Performance
Clear communication is at the heart of many professions. Difficulties following verbal directions, communications, and instructions can lead to decreased job performance and earning potential.
In fact, a study from the Better Hearing Institute found that individuals with untreated hearing loss can lose as much as $30,000 in income each year.
Potential Impacts to Memory
There is some evidence that untreated hearing loss can lead to cognitive decline and memory loss.
Hearing loss makes the brain work harder when straining or trying to fill in information gaps but this extra work pulls energy from other parts of the brain. Hearing loss can also cause the brain to shrink.
A report from the Lancet Commission in 2020 lists hearing loss as one of the greatest risks for dementia.
While these impacts on daily life can be significant, it is important to understand that being proactive about hearing loss can prevent or reduce these problems.
Taking steps to prevent hearing loss or treat and address current losses can improve your quality of life and keep you happier and healthier for longer.
Proactive Tips for Minimizing Hearing Loss
While some types of hearing loss may be unavoidable, there are some things you can do to minimize the risks, damage, and progression of hearing loss.
Protect Your Ears from Loud Noise
Exposure to loud noise is a leading cause of hearing loss. Whether attending concerts, working in noisy environments, or using headphones at high volumes, prolonged exposure to loud sounds can be detrimental to the delicate hair cells in the inner ear.
Here are two steps you can take to minimize damage:
- Utilize earplugs or ear protection: When exposed to loud noise, like at a concert or construction site, wear or use earplugs. These devices act as a barrier, reducing the intensity of the sound and safeguarding the delicate hair cells from damage.
- Practice listening breaks: If you frequently use headphones or earphones, giving your ears regular breaks is important. Listening to music or other audio at a moderate volume and taking breaks every hour can help prevent overexposure to loud sounds, allowing the hair cells to recover and minimizing the risk of hearing loss.
Practice Safe Listening Habits
Exposure to loud noises is sometimes unavoidable, so wearing ear protection can help mitigate hearing loss.
However, in addition to protecting your ears from loud noise, adopting safe listening habits in your everyday life can significantly contribute to preserving your hearing health. Here are some tips to consider:
- Keep the volume in check: When using headphones or earphones, ensure the volume is set safely. The volume should be low enough to hear external sounds comfortably.
- Limit exposure to loud environments: If you find yourself in loud environments, try to minimize your time spent there. When possible, choose quieter locations for social gatherings or recreational activities.
- Use noise-canceling headphones: Noise-canceling headphones can be a great investment. Blocking out external noise allows you to enjoy music or other audio content but keep it to a lower, safer volume.
Maintain Overall Health and Well-being
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can also contribute to the prevention of hearing loss. Several health conditions and lifestyle factors can indirectly impact your hearing health.
- Quit smoking: Smoking has been linked to various health problems, including an increased risk of hearing loss. By quitting, you can reduce the risk of damaging your hearing and improve your overall health.
- Manage chronic conditions: Certain chronic conditions, like diabetes and cardiovascular disease, can increase the risk of hearing loss. Managing these conditions effectively through proper medical care, medication, and lifestyle changes can help protect your hearing.
- Stay physically active: Regular exercise promotes good blood circulation, which is vital for maintaining the health of the hair cells in the inner ear. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week, but remember to protect your hearing while exercising!
The Importance of Regular Hearing Assessments
Regular hearing assessments are crucial for maintaining your hearing health. These assessments, conducted by qualified audiologists, play a significant role in detecting early signs of hearing loss and enabling timely intervention.
At Chicago Hearing Services, our dedicated team of audiologists is ready to provide personalized care and attention to assess your hearing and offer tailored recommendations. Our comprehensive hearing evaluations involve various tests to evaluate your hearing acuity, middle ear function, and auditory system integrity.
Contact us to schedule a hearing evaluation today. Take a proactive step towards preserving your hearing health and enjoying the richness of sounds life has to offer.