Offered by: John Wilson, B.S., BC-HIS – Blue Ribbon Hearing & Tinnitus Center
Hearing is so important there is a month dedicated to making it better. Hearing loss is very prevalent as 65 million people in the U.S. have some form of hearing loss. Better hearing is achieved by first preventing hearing loss, and second, treating it when it occurs.
Better hearing starts with prevention. While hearing loss from certain causes, such as certain genetic conditions is unpreventable, other causes can be potentially prevented by lifestyle changes and noise exposure prevention. Lifestyle related health problems such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes can contribute to hearing loss. Controlling blood sugars, eating a healthy diet, quitting smoking, and treating blood pressure can reduce the risk of suffering from hearing loss. Living a healthy lifestyle can also decrease the likelihood of having to take medications that are ototoxic and can potentially damage hearing.
Noise induced hearing loss is common for those who work in loud vocations or have loud hobbies. Avoiding loud, noisy environments, and using hearing protection helps prevent noise induced hearing loss. Muffs or earplugs should be worn when operating noisy equipment such as power tools and lawn mowers and when using firearms. Custom hearing protection increases the comfort and effectiveness of hearing protection. Listening to music loudly with buds or headphones has contributed to a significant number of cases of permanent hearing loss in young people. Earphones and musician plugs that are custom made for an individual’s ear can make music listening much more comfortable.
Monitoring hearing is important. A baseline hearing test will give you a way to track changes in hearing. Most cases of hearing loss progress gradually, and individuals may suffer from hearing loss for years without being fully aware of what is happening. A complete audiometric evaluation can also help detect other health issues. Having regular follow up hearing tests will allow you to monitor your hearing loss and track changes over time.
Better hearing is most commonly achieved by properly using hearing aids, other assistive listening devices, and through modified communication techniques. Some patients may require surgery or implants to improve hearing. Modern technology has eliminated many of the reasons patients cite for avoiding the use of hearing aids. Using amplification to stimulate the auditory system helps keep the brain working effectively.
Treating hearing loss sooner rather than later has been shown to improve overall mental and physical health. Hearing loss is one of the greatest contributing factors to dementia other than Alzheimer’s disease. Studies have shown a correlation between lack of auditory stimulation and brain shrinkage, and hearing loss is closely linked to diseases such as dementia and often contributes to depression. Those with hearing loss are also at increased risk of injury due to falls.
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