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Why Can’t I Hear? Crystal Clear Answers On How to Protect Your Hearing & Improve Ear Health
Do you often have to ask your loved ones to repeat themselves, and find yourself wondering “why can’t I hear”? Many of us will experience a decline in hearing as we age, but, with these tips on how to protect your hearing and improve ear health, you can gain the upperhand on hearing loss.
From music, to the voices of friends and family, to the subtle sounds of nature on a sunny day, our sense of hearing is responsible for enriching our lives in many ways. Unfortunately, that dreaded question “why can’t I hear” is commonplace for many people as they age, and can leave you wondering how to protect your ears to keep that sense of hearing as strong as possible.
Today, we’re going to explore some of the best ways to protect your ears and improve ear health, according to the experts. While there’s no secret formula that’ll help you suddenly hear a pin drop across the room, there are some truly great tips and practices that are essential to healthy ears.
Why Can’t I Hear? The Scientific Answers to Age-Related Hearing Loss
The first step in learning how to protect your hearing is understanding why it’s declining in the first place. Hearing loss related to age is called presbycusis, and is actually quite common. In fact, one in every three adults over the age of 65 experiences it!1
So, what’s the answer to “why can’t I hear”? Well, there are a lot of potential root causes. Some are simply biological, such as genetic factors, the effects of health conditions like heart disease and, most notably, natural changes that occur in the ear over time, such as the loss of sensitive hair cells. There are also external factors, like prolonged exposure to loud noises over many years and side effects of certain medications.
The onset of age-related hearing loss isn’t always obvious, so it’s important to be aware of the symptoms, which may include:
- Trouble hearing higher pitched sounds
- Ringing in one or both ears (tinnitus)
- Difficulty understanding conversations over background noise
Now, let’s get into some great tips on how to protect your hearing so that you can experience healthy ears at any age!
Cut Out the Noise: The Number One Key to Protect Your Hearing
In any discussion about how to protect your ears and hearing, reducing exposure to loud noises is the most important topic. At first it might seem painfully obvious, just stay away from jackhammers and rock concerts and your ears will be fine, right? The fact is, not all dangerous noise levels are quite so apparent.
The reason why noise is the enemy of healthy ears is that it can damage those delicate hair cells in the ear responsible for hearing. It’s not only short-lived, extremely loud sounds you need to look out for; long-term exposure to sounds over 85db can be damaging. Even everyday noises like lawnmowers, a loud radio, or heavy traffic can exceed those levels!
Some useful ways to protect your hearing against harmful noises include:
- Wearing Ear Protection: Whether earplugs or earmuffs, hearing protection can help reduce sound levels by up to 30db.
- Giving Your Ears a Rest: If you do find yourself in a situation where noise can’t be avoided, try to give your ears a break every 15 minutes, and take at least 18 hours after the fact to take a sonic rest.
- Be Careful When Listening to Music: One of the biggest answers to “why can’t I hear” may be right in your headphones. Audiologists recommend keeping your recreational listening below 60% of the maximum volume to avoid damage over time.
Ultimately, a heightened awareness of the kinds of noise you’re being exposed to on a daily basis is a huge part of maintaining healthy ears.
Healthy Ears Are Part of a Healthy You
While protecting against harmful noise levels is a paramount piece of how to protect your hearing, there are some surprising connections between healthy ears and how healthy your overall lifestyle is:
- Smoking Can Contribute to Hearing Loss: Research has found that those who smoke have a significantly higher incidence of hearing loss than their non-smoking counterparts.2 Furthermore, even being exposed to secondhand smoke can put your hearing at risk.
- Circulatory Conditions May Damage the Ear: The answer to “why can’t I hear” may be tied to other conditions you experience such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. The stress on your circulatory system can cause damage to the delicate components of the inner ear.
- Check With Your Doctor About Medications That May Pose Hearing Risk: Another component of how to protect your hearing may be right in your medicine cabinet. A large number of both prescription and over the counter drugs are ototoxic, meaning harmful to the ears, and can range from simple aspirin to IV antibiotics.
- Make Sure You’re Getting the Right Vitamins & Minerals: Proper nutrition is crucial to overall health, but did you know it can also help improve ear health? Vitamin B12, potassium, magnesium, and a proper amount of iron are all recommended to help maintain healthy ears.
- Know Your Genetic Risk Level & Have Your Hearing Tested: If you have close relatives who experience hearing problems, it’s never a bad idea to have your hearing tested to find out if a genetic predisposition has manifested as early signs of hearing loss. These tests are simple, and involve listening and responding to sounds of different volumes and pitches to determine your hearing levels.
These lifestyle changes and preventative measures aren’t just useful for protecting your hearing, they have the added benefit of producing a positive impact on your total wellness!
If you want to continue to enjoy all of the sounds that life has to offer for as long as possible, these answers to the question “why can’t I hear” and useful tips on how to protect your hearing are invaluable tools. Make sure to talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing problems with hearing and ear health, so that you can come up with a treatment plan together.
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- Kumar, Adesh et al. “The effect of smoking on the hearing status-a hospital based study.” Journal of clinical and diagnostic research : JCDR vol. 7,2 (2013): 210-4. doi:10.7860/JCDR/2013/4968.2730