As we get older, there are many aspects of physical and mental health that become more challenging to manage. A good example is hearing loss, which is incredibly common in people over the age of 60. A significant portion of the senior population just accepts hearing loss as a natural part of aging. While heredity can play a role in hearing loss, there are several healthy lifestyle practices that can be followed to minimize risk and hearing damage.
How Does Hearing Loss Occur?
Hearing loss can happen at any age, but it tends to be more common in older adults. Many factors, such as repeated exposure to loud noise, genetics, age, medications, poor nutrition, and overall health can be involved.
Repeated Noise Exposure
One of the most prevalent causes of hearing loss is recurring exposure to loud sounds. People that work in noisy environments or live in areas with perpetual loud sounds are at a greater risk for ear damage. Noise exposure can damage the delicate hair cells in the inner ear, which help carry sound messages to the brain. Damage to these hair cells in the cochlea is irreversible so it is highly recommended to protect your ears before it is too late.
Heredity can also be a factor when it comes to hearing loss. If your parents have experienced hearing loss, the chance is greater it may happen to you as well. Genetic hearing loss can be evident at birth or may not manifest until later in life.
Age-Related Hearing Loss
Also known as presbycusis, age-related hearing loss occurs gradually over time. As the structure of the inner changes with age, it can affect hearing ability. Damage or loss of cochlear hair cells can also contribute to age-related hearing loss.
There are certain medications that may have a detrimental effect on hearing. These are known as ototoxic medicines and can cause damage to the hair cells in the cochlea. This is another increased risk factor for seniors, who are often taking multiple medications simultaneously to combat a variety of health issues.
It is no secret that a healthy diet is a major contributing factor to good overall health. Again, this becomes even more crucial with age. Daily nutrition is extremely important to the general health of seniors. Poor nutrition can result in reduced blood flow, so not only is less blood getting to the body’s cells, but it is also less rich in essential nutrients.
Lifestyle Practices for Seniors to Help Prevent Hearing Loss
While age-related hearing loss may not be entirely preventable, there are several approaches that can be taken to minimize the risk. Some helpful lifestyle practices include:
- Regular exams by a hearing professional
- Avoiding loud noises as much as possible
- Monitor volume on personal devices, TV, radio
- Prevent prolonged exposure to environmental noise pollution
- Wear ear protection in noisy environments such as earplugs, earmuffs, and noise-cancelling headphones
- Keep ears clean using proper technique
- Avoid using cotton swabs to remove earwax as it often just pushes the build-up farther in the ear
- If you feel you have earwax accumulation it is best removed by a healthcare professional
- Be aware of medication side effects
- Some medications can affect hearing
- Seek treatment for existing medical conditions
- Some health issues like high blood pressure, diabetes, circulatory problems, and cardiovascular disease can impact hearing
- Wear hearing aids
- Hearing aids are an extremely effective way to accommodate hearing loss and prevent the situation from getting worse
- Engage in healthy lifestyle routines
- Maintain a balanced diet rich in nutrients, get regular exercise, stay social, get plenty of sleep