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Preventing Hearing Loss

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Updated June 20, 2007

Age-related hearing loss is mainly caused by a loss of the tiny hair cells that act as sounds receptors and free radical damage that "clogs up" tissues that act as sound amplifiers. As many as 50 million people in the U.S. could have impaired hearing by 2050.

Young people are losing their hearing 2.5 times faster than their parents' generation due to more exposure to loud music and noisy environments. That means that when young people today are 40, their hearing ability will be more like a 60 or 70 year-olds' hearing.

Hearing loss caused by exposure to loud noises can be prevented. Here is a list of general tips for reducing your risk of age-related hearing loss and preventing existing damage from progressing:

  • Limit the time you are exposed to loud noises.

  • Earplugs should be used when you are exposed to firearms, lawn mowers, leaf blowers, jet skies, power tools, loud appliances, snowmobiles, or any other loud noises.

  • If you use headphones to listen to music all day long, do not have the volume up above 50 percent. And never exceed 80 percent, even if you're listening for a short time.

  • Do not try to clean your ear canal with a cotton swab or other tool. You may push ear wax further down the ear canal which, over time, can cause it to accumulate and cause hearing loss. Have a health care professional clean your ears when necessary.

  • Keep your heart and veins healthy. High blood pressure and problems with circulation could cause hearing loss since changes to your blood supply can affect the delicate structures of your ear.

Sources:

American Association for the Advancement of Science Annual Meeting, 2007. Presentation by Steven Greenberg.

National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders. Presbycusis. NIH Pub. No. 97-4235.

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