Nearly half of all baby boomers already suffer some degree of hearing loss. Due to presbycusis, which is the breakdown of miniscule hair cells in the ear as you age, age-related hearing loss is often permanent, because those very important hair cells do not re-grow once they are damaged or die off. While there is no known single cause for age-related hearing loss, there are a handful of suspected culprits, and their up-to-no-good ways have nothing to do with how old you are.
There’s never been a better time to address hearing loss. Today’s audiologists — like those at HearingLife hearing centers — can mitigate almost all hearing problems. That being said, protecting your ears from the ravages of age has notable benefits, too. From treating hearing loss as soon as it crosses your ears’ threshold to adding antioxidant-rich foods into your diet, here are four ways you can protect yourself against age-related hearing loss.
Treating Hearing Loss Early
Of the 28 million Americans who suffer hearing impairment only one in five has a hearing aid to address the problem, and of those, the average time it took to get hearing help was somewhere between six and 10 years. To many people, untreated hearing loss may seem as though it causes few problems — after all, being hard of hearing isn’t going to kill you, but it can certainly cause frustration and difficulty in your relationships, lead to a lower quality of life and even contribute to mental health problems.
However, one of the main reasons hearing loss should be treated as soon as it’s noticed is that not treating it will lead to a worsening of the impairment. That’s right. Untreated hearing loss doesn’t remain in a static state; it progresses with time. Because the auditory processing centers of the brain receive less exercise and activity due to the ears hearing less, that area of the brain will actually begin to atrophy, worsening the hearing loss in an effect that compounds the longer the impairment goes untreated.
When it comes to protecting your ears as you age, it’s essential that you treat hearing loss as soon as you begin to notice its effects. Not sure whether or not your hearing is in decline? Be proactive, and schedule a hearing test.
Did you need one more reason to quit? Smoking, the health hazard and lifestyle choice that still has 42 million adherents in the United States alone, isn’t just hard on your lungs and heart, it’s also quite ruinous for your ears. Smokers are 70 percent more likely than non-smokers to suffer hearing loss, largely due to nicotine — a drug that’s known to be ototoxic, which means it can impair hearing, negatively affect balance and cause tinnitus.
Also, when you inhale nicotine and carbon monoxide, all your blood vessels tighten up — including the ones in your ears. That tightening reduces blood flow and oxygen to the ear, which damages the tiny hair cells in your ear that translate sound waves into electrical impulses for your brain. This damage leads to presbycusis, or age-related hearing loss. So ditch the cigs, and enjoy a longer life with better hearing.
Stay Diabetes Free
Clearly, good circulation with oxygen-rich blood is essential to good hearing health. Unfortunately, people with diabetes don’t have great circulation. Not only can blood flow to the ears be affected, but blood flow to the auditory centers of the brain can be affected, too. While circulation is certainly part of the picture, diabetes’ negative effect on hearing goes deeper.
One theory is that diabetics’ high glucose levels cause damage to the small blood vessels inside the inner ear much like high glucose causes damage to kidneys. One thing is sure: Diabetics have a higher rate of hearing loss than non-diabetics, so it’s in your best hearing interest to remain diabetes-free.
Antioxidants have long been touted as veritable elixirs of good health and long life, and it seems that, for people who eat a diet filled with antioxidant-rich food, they provide real, lasting protection against age-related hearing loss. Because antioxidants fight the free radicals and other harm that can accumulate in the body as it ages, they provide a natural buffer against the hearing loss that results from aging, too. To get more antioxidants in your diet, eat and drink the following:
- Green leafy vegetables
- Green tea
- Red wine
- Organic berries
Getting older affects everyone lucky enough to live long enough to age, and while it comes with many challenges, some of the challenges can be offset with a little effort. In particular, age-related hearing loss — while it can’t be completely banished — can be greatly reduced. Take these four necessary steps to bettering your hearing health so that your old age can still have plenty of music and laughter in it.