The most common cause of hearing loss is related to growing older and changes which occur in the inner ear. One in three 65 and older live with presbycusis (age related hearing loss) while it effects half of those 75 and older. Have you ever wondered what causes some to suffer from presbycusis, while others maintain normal hearing for longer? Some aspects are due to family history. While you can’t stop yourself from aging or change your family history, you can definitely reduce your risk of hearing loss. Here are a few ways you can protect your ears now so you can continue to use them well into the future.
Understanding the Causes of Hearings Loss
The most common cause of hearing loss making up 70 to 80 percent of all cases is sensorineural hearing loss. Under this umbrella are a wide range of causes including exposure to loud sounds, changes in blood flow, chronic infections and more.
We collect sound with our ears, but their job is not complete until these sounds reach the brain. It does this via tiny hairlike cells called stereocilia which rest in a tiny snail shaped organ called the cochlea. As sounds enter the cochlea, the stereocilia are triggered, transforming the audio vibrations into electrical impulses which are sent to the audio cortex in the brain. For us to follow speech and interpret sound, it’s essential that these sounds reach our brain. However, they are incredibly suspeptible to damage – blocking the delivery of certain tones or pitches.
Sensorineural hearing loss is a permanent condition so it’s important to do what we can to prevent it now.
Address Hypertension and Heart Health
It’s not always apparent if you have high blood pressure also known as hypertension. The only true way is measuring your heart rate regularly. Even if it’s not apparent doesn’t mean it’s not causing damage. Hypertension can cause heart attacks and strokes. In addition it can damage the stereocilia of the inner ear, reducing oxygenated rich blood to the cells of the inner ear.
Heart disease often shows warning signs in the form of chest pain, tightness, pressure or shortness of breath. Unaddressed it can similarly damage the delivery of blood to the inner ears causing lasting damage. To prevent both issues from progressing to dangerous levels, early prevention is key. Schedule regular health checkups to stay on top of every aspect of your health.
Quit Smoking and Limit Drinking
Both vices have been connected to dangerous health outcomes. For smoking it affects your lungs and risk of cancers while excessive drinking targets cognitive health, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems. To add to this list is hearing loss. In the case of smoking, nicotine and other chemicals in tobacco products restricts blood vessels slowing the delivery of oxygen in blood to the ears. In the case of excessive alcohol use it affects your brain’s cognitive ability to process and understand sound and speech over time. Now that’s one more reason to cut back or quit all together!
If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, it’s important to consider hearing health as part of your diabetes health regiment. Research has shown that people with diabetes are twice as likely to have hearing loss, as it can damage the cells in your inner ears. Make sure to follow your doctor’s orders and do what you can to keep your blood sugar under control. In addition, schedule a hearing checkup today.
One aspect of heart health is making sure you get your heart rate up every day. You don’t have to be a gym bunny. Even a walk after lunch or dinner can make a big difference. The goal is to get your heart rate up for 30 minuets or more at least 3 times a week. We know that a healthy heart equals a reduced risk of hearing loss.
A Healthy Diet
Another aspect of heart health which will also support your hearing is a healthy diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins, while avoiding processed sugar and foods as often as possible. We could geek out about the best minerals and vitamins to support healthy hearing but if you eat enough vegetables in your diet there is no doubt you’ll hit all the boxes for optimal health.