The art of aging gracefully includes good hearing care. After all, communication is integral to maintaining those vital connections with friends and family and for full enjoyment of your favorite activities! Hearing is also an important factor for maintaining good mental health, as there is a clinically proven relationship between hearing loss and dementia. Just think about the negative impact missed information or incorrectly heard information could have on memory and your apparent mental alertness.
Maintaining good hearing starts with good general health and avoiding those conditions that can be destructive to our delicate hearing structures. Our ears need a rich supply of oxygenated blood flow at all times so that any medical conditions such as, diabetes and heart or vascular conditions, should receive immediate care for optimal management.
“While we can’t prevent hearing loss as a result of hereditary factors, we can avoid additional exposure to loud noise and music, which is a leading cause of preventable hearing loss,” explains Catherine Marino, AuD, doctor of audiology at the Riddle Hospital Audiology and Hearing Aid Center.
Below, Dr. Marino explains how older adults can take a proactive approach to preventing additional hearing loss.
Avoid excessively loud noise and music
If you have to shout over a noise, that means it’s too loud. As much as possible, try to remove yourself from situations or areas where excessive noise will be a problem.
Wear hearing protection
Although you can try avoiding loud sounds, the reality is that some noise is unavoidable. If you know you’ll be going somewhere where you’ll be exposed to loud noise or music, be sure to bring along earplugs to protect your hearing. Hearing protection is especially important for those who work in high levels of noise; such as factories. Talk to your employer about your concern, and ensure that they provide appropriate earplugs or earmuffs during work hours.
Check your prescriptions
“There are certain medications that can cause hearing loss or tinnitus,” says Dr. Marino.
If you’re taking a prescription medication, talk to your doctor to see if your hearing could be affected.
Have your hearing tested
You may want to establish a good working relationship with an audiologist before you even suspect a hearing problem. A comprehensive audiological evaluation can uncover subtle conditions before they become a problem. Your audiologist will perform a baseline hearing test and advise you if there are any suspected conditions that need medical attention or hearing treatment. Since sometimes hearing loss can be due to treatable conditions, such as, ear wax or middle ear fluid, your audiologist will refer you to the appropriate medical professional.
Taking these steps won’t just prevent hearing loss—it can improve relationships with family and friends, decrease your risk for dementia, and improve your self-confidence.