May is Better Speech and Hearing month. Contrary to popular belief, a majority of people who have hearing loss are under the age of 65, according to the Better Hearing Institute (BHI). Furthermore, the BHI estimates that hearing loss affects more than 6 million Americans between the ages of 18 and 44. Nearly 1.5 million are of school age. So, what causes hearing loss, if it isn’t necessarily the result of growing older? And can anything be done to prevent it? Exposure to excessive noise is one of the leading risk factors — and one that’s largely preventable. Following are steps you can take to reduce your risks:
If you work in a noisy environment, check with your employer to make sure your hearing is adequately protected, in compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations. Limit the time you’re exposed to noise. Even seemingly harmless sound sources can damage your hearing over an extended period of time. Wear hearing protection, such as ear plugs or muffs, when participating in high-noise activities. You can experience hearing damage immediately by shooting a gun and in as little as five to 10 minutes at a rock concert or sporting event. Turn down the volume on the TV, radio and stereo. Be extra cautious when listening to music on an iPod or other personal audio device, especially if you’re using “earbuds.” Buy quieter products, and reduce the number of noisy appliances running at the same time in your personal space.
Other preventative measures
Some common medicines, such as antibiotics, aspirin, diuretics and chemotherapy drugs, may cause hearing loss. Ask your doctor or pharmacist whether any medications you’re taking could potentially affect your hearing, and inquire about the availability of less risky alternatives.
Lastly, consider supplementing your diet with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, commonly found in fish oils. An article in The Hearing Journal reports on a possible link between taking fish oil and a reduced risk of hearing loss in adults. This conclusion is based on a study, conducted by the University of Sydney, which found that people who ate fish at least twice a week had a 42% lower risk of experiencing a hearing loss than those who ate less than one serving of fish per week.
Once damage to your hearing occurs, it is usually irreversible. But this doesn’t mean it’s untreatable. Most hearing loss can be helped with today’s advanced hearing aids. If you suspect hearing loss, we encourage you to receive a hearing evaluation from an Amplifon provider. Schedule an appointment today!