By Raychel Stewart
For The Signal
Fifteen percent of people over the age of 18 report some type of hearing loss, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. That number jumps to 39% once people reach their 60s.
Although some hearing loss is common in the aging process, hearing cannot be restored. However, steps can be taken to preserve hearing before it reaches an extreme degree.
“Protecting your hearing is the best way to protect your brain,” said Dr. Patrice Rifkind, founder of Audiology Associates. “Dementia is two to four times more likely when hearing loss is not treated.”
The first step is to speak with an audiologist who can administer a hearing exam. Exams can establish a baseline and audiologists can determine when future tests will be needed. This also provides a way to measure if hearing loss has increased over time.
Both Rifkind and Nola Aronson, owner of Advanced Audiology, said baseline tests should be given by age 50.
Step two is to avoid high volumes when using headphones or earbuds. More than 1 billion teens and young adults are vulnerable to hearing loss due to misuse of earbuds, according to the World Health Organization. Earbuds are especially dangerous because they fit inside the ear, next to the eardrum. The recommended setting on audio devices in 60% below the maximum volume and they should only be used an hour a day.
“It’s important to make sure music isn’t turned up so loud where people around you can hear it through your earbuds,” said Aronson.
Step three requires protective gear. Whenever loud noises are present, such as concerts, lawn mowing or construction sites, earplugs or earphones should be worn.
Step four is limiting the use of cotton swabs. Dust and other particles can be prevented from entering the ear through ear wax. The hearing testing service Ear-Q advises against the use of cotton swabs because it can cause damage to organs in the ear if inserted too far.
The last step is to avoid loud noises. As mentioned earlier, protective gear should be worn when visiting loud cities, watching fireworks or loud performances.
Rifkind recommends maintaining good nutrition and avoiding the causes of high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
“Audiologists are here to educate people,” said Aronson. “Hearing aids are not a commodity. Come to a professional.”
There are no symptoms or pain caused by hearing loss. By taking the precautions above, hearing can be preserved as people grow older.
Metro Creative contributed to this report.