If more people understood just how serious hearing loss is, it’s likely they would take precautions to protect their hearing. While there are several treatment options for hearing loss, it’s an irreversible condition with serious implications affecting the relationships in your life, sense of self and ability to be alert in the world around you. The key to protecting your hearing is understanding when you are at risk and taking the appropriate precautions. Even if you already have some degree of hearing loss it’s important to understand that it’s a progressive condition and can become worse. Greater degree of hearing loss increase you risk significantly of several health concerns such as a greater risk of falls and accidents as well as an elevated risk of developing dementia. Here are just a few healthy habits to help protect your future and your overall health.
Understanding the root of hearing loss
The first step of prevention is understanding the root cause of hearing loss. We collect sound with our ears, but it must reach our brain in order for us to process sound and speech. Our ears achieve this via tiny hair-like cells called stereocilia. These tiny cells are the sole transport of sound to the brain by transforming audio waves and converting them into electrical impulses. In this form the audio cortex of the brain is able to identify sounds, their proximity and source. However, stereocilia are very fragile and prone to damage due to exposure to sound, impact, and changes in blood flow. When this occurs irreversible sensorineural hearing loss occurs, making up 70 to 80 percent of all types of hearing loss.
Manage your blood pressure and heart health
Because stereocilia rely on a healthy and consistent supply of oxygenated blood, it’s important to understand that heart health is also hearing health. If you have a heart condition or struggle with hypertension (high blood pressure) it’s important to follow your doctors’ instructions in order to manage it, as it effects your overall health—including your ears!
Stop smoking and limit drinking
Smoking and excessive alcohol are both highly addictive vices and often hard to quit. However with determination you can take steps to kick these habits for good. If you needed another incentive aside from a heightened risk of cancer, lung disease and cognitive issues, both these vices have been connected with higher rates of hearing loss. Nicotine in tobacco as well as other additive in tobacco products are ototoxic. This means that they damage the stereocilia. Meanwhile excessive alcohol can affect how the brain processes sound in the audio cortex. It’s never too late to quit in order to reduce the impact to your hearing.
Manage your diabetes
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 37.3 million people in the US—about 1 in 10—have diabetes. About 1 in 5 people with diabetes don’t know they have it. If you’ve been diagnosed with this serious condition it’s important to follow your doctors instructions to keep it under control. In addition, research has shown that people with diabetes are twice as likely to have hearing loss. If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, it’s important to monitor regularly for hearing loss.
An active lifestyle
The key to healthy hearing is healthy blood flow to the cells of the inner ear. Aside from boosting mood, keeping your heart flowing regularly and building muscle, regular exercise supports the stereocilia or the inner ear making sure you can hear clear for years to come.
A balanced diet
In conjunction with an active lifestyle a balanced diet will support the cells of the inner ear with the vital nutrients and mineral they need to endure. Prioritize a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins, while avoiding processed sugars and foods.
Aside from age induced hearing loss the single highest cause of hearing loss for people of all ages is caused by excessive levels of noise. Monitor the levels of sound you are exposed to daily at home, work and while relaxing. This includes headphones which can potentially deliver sounds loud enough to damage hearing in under 15 minuets. To find out more about how to protect your hearing, contact us today for a hearing exam.