Preventing Hearing Loss Through Healthy Living

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Hearing loss is an often overlooked area of public health, with 36 million U.S. adults suffering from some degree of it. Hearing loss is the third most commonly reported physical condition following arthritis and cardiovascular disease. After age 65, about one in three people experience it and may require hearing aids.

Gradual loss of hearing affects people from all age groups and can vary from mild to extreme. Whether the hearing loss is temporary or permanent depends upon the cause of the impairment. Those who are born with no hearing are regarded as having congenital hearing loss. The most often reported causes of hearing loss are age and exposure to loud noise. In those who suffer age-related hearing loss, inner ear changes occur, resulting in a gradual and steady decrease of hearing.


Some forms of hearing loss can be prevented. Repeated exposure to loud noise is a very common cause of hearing loss. It can occur slowly, without pain or other types of symptoms. Some who suffer this type of hearing loss do not realize they are losing their hearing until it reaches a severe state.

To prevent noise-related hearing loss, be sure that you avoid harmful noises, especially those that are repetitive. You might be exposed to loud noise at work, home, or in other types of settings. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has more information on how to avoid harmful noises at work.

Another way to decrease the chance of hearing loss is to wear ear protectors. These devices are usually earphones that block noise, either through mechanical means or electronic means. The mechanical ones simply provide a physical barrier to sound waves. The types of earphones that aircraft carrier flight deck crews wear are a good example of this type. Another type of protective earphones uses alternating radio frequencies to counter incoming sound waves.

Healthy Living

Healthy lifestyle choices can also be a factor in hearing loss. The NYU School of Medicine conducted a 2011 study that showed that secondhand smoke exposure almost doubles the risk of developing hearing loss among young people.  The study has huge implications since over half of U.S. adolescents are exposed regularly to secondhand smoke.

Over 1,500 teens ranging in age from 12 to 19 took part in the study. They were given tests for hearing and blood tests for nicotine exposure. Those teens that were exposed to secondhand smoke were more prone to developing a type of hearing loss caused by cochlea problems. The cochlea is a small organ located in the inner ear. This type of hearing loss normally happens as people get older.

Teens exposed to secondhand smoke performed more poorly over every sound frequency, particularly sounds associated with speech. Those with higher exposure to secondhand smoke had greater chances of having unilateral hearing loss or hearing loss that affects only one ear.

There are some ways to avoid exposure to damaging noises in your environment to help prevent premature hearing loss. Avoid exposure to loud music, use protective wear, and avoid secondhand smoke exposure.
Written by:  John O (

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