Hearing loss occurs naturally in some cases, but many times hearing conditions are completely preventable. There are several known causes of hearing loss, the most common of which is exposure to loud noise. This is called noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).
NIHL is responsible for a quarter of hearing loss cases and is growing at epidemic rates in the U.S.
Along with noise exposure, hearing loss causes include untreated illnesses, preventable diseases, ear injuries, head or neck trauma and ototoxic medications. By understanding what causes hearing loss, you can do your best to prevent it throughout your lifetime.
Protecting Your Hearing from Noise Exposure
NIHL can occur gradually, quickly or instantly depending on the decibel level of the sounds around you. Generally, any noise over 85 dB is considered dangerous for your ears, though your hearing loss can occur at even quieter levels. Though NIHL is becoming more and more common, the good news is that it’s completely preventable. Audiologists recommend that patients in Alexandria protect their hearing by:
- Wearing quality hearing protection. Invest in quality custom earmolds or other protective devices recommended by your audiologist. Keep these devices with you and wear them anytime you might potentially be exposed to loud noise. Some examples of when you should wear hearing protection include when you attend concerts, go to sporting events, shoot firearms, work around machinery, use power tools, ride in or on a loud vehicle and mow the lawn.
- Turning down the volume. The rapid increase in cases of NIHL is mostly attributed to the popularity of entertainment devices and personal music players. It’s vital to keep the volume low anytime you use earbuds or headphones to listen to music or watch videos. You should also focus on turning down the volume when you watch TV or movies or listen to audio in your home or car.
- Limiting use of loud tools, equipment and appliances. It’s important to use hearing protection anytime you use a tool or appliance that produces sounds over 85 dB. However, using more than one quieter piece of equipment at a time can also add up to hearing loss. Try to only run one thing at a time, and always check the decibel level output on new appliances and tools before you buy them.
- Understanding decibel levels. Do you know how loud 85 dB is? Most people don’t, but understanding what potentially damaging noises sound like is the only way to ensure you can protect your hearing. While there are tools to measure decibel levels, most people in Alexandria today can simply use a decibel meter app on their smartphones. You can also find out the decibel output of many appliances by simply checking the label.
Protecting Your Hearing from Other Factors
Logical living can go a long way in protecting your hearing. Alexandria residents can avoid hearing loss from disease, injury and medication simply by caring for their health. Here’s a look at what to avoid in order to protect your hearing effectively:
- Ototoxic diseases: Conditions that can damage your hearing include viral diseases such as measles, mumps, whooping cough and rubella as well as bacterial infections like meningitis and syphilis. Untreated ear infections and other illnesses can also result in permanent hearing damage. You can prevent these conditions by staying current on vaccinations, using protection if you’re sexually active and seeking immediate medical treatment if you fall ill.
- Injury or trauma: Head, neck and ear injuries don’t always result in hearing loss, but they certainly can in many cases. While trauma isn’t always avoidable, you can take steps to prevent it by wearing your seatbelt, using protective gear during physical activities and contact sports, and avoiding dangerous situations (e.g. standing on an unstable chair to change a light bulb or going off-trail during a hike).
- Ototoxic medications: Many medications are known to be ototoxic, which means auditory system damage is a common side effect. Some ototoxic medications include aspirin and other salicylate pain relievers, diuretics, quinine, certain antibiotics and some chemotherapy drugs. Always talk to your doctor about side effects of prescription and over-the-counter medications before you begin taking them, and opt for non-ototoxic drugs when you can.