Lifestyle tips to help prevent hearing loss
Most people experience some degree of hearing loss as they get older – with the most common causes of hearing loss being age-related, followed by excessive exposure to loud sounds.
Age-related hearing loss is difficult to avoid but taking measures to protecting your hearing is vital to prevent any hearing loss from getting worse.
One in 6 Australians experience hearing loss, with one-third of Australians having measurable hearing loss by the time they turn 65 years old. As we get older, the tiny hair cells in your inner ears will naturally, slowly break down and can’t transport sound vibrations as well as they used to. (We’ve included the several types of hearing loss at the bottom of the article).
It’s never too early—or too late—to begin wearing hearing protection around loud noises. As well as adopting a healthy lifestyle and following your doctor’s advice can go a long way to protecting your hearing health. But there are other healthy habits that can also help you preserve our hearing as we get older.
Your inner ear contains delicate hair-like cells that are quite sensitive to changes in blood flow. If these cells are damaged, you experience hearing loss. The healthier you are overall, the better you can prevent hearing loss—or preserve the hearing you do have, if you already have hearing loss.
Here are some lifestyle tips to help prevent hearing loss:
Manage your blood pressure and cardiac health
High blood pressure and heart disease can damage the fragile mechanisms inside your ear that help you hear. If you have high cholesterol or blood pressure, follow your doctor’s treatment orders to get it under control.
Stop smoking and vaping, and limit drinking
Studies definitively show that cigarette smoke—whether directly, secondhand, or even in utero—can have a big impact on a person’s hearing health. Likewise with heavy alcohol use, which can create a toxic environment in the ear. Vaping and hearing loss isn’t as well-studied, but there are anecdotal reports linking it to sudden hearing loss.
Keep diabetes under control
Research has shown that people with diabetes are twice as likely to have hearing loss. Just as with high blood pressure, diabetes can damage the cells in your inner ears. Keep your blood sugar under control and follow your doctor’s orders for managing diabetes.
Exercise and practice stress reduction
What isn’t exercise helpful for? Exercise improves blood flow and helps your body—and your ear health—in countless ways. (Just be careful about loud music and incorrect weightlifting at the gym; both are linked to hearing damage.) And because chronic high levels of stress aren’t good for your hearing (or the rest of you), do what you can to keep stress levels under control.
Eat foods high in certain vitamins and minerals
Did you know that vitamins A, C, E, especially B12, are vital to good hearing? The same is true of minerals including potassium and magnesium. Iron-deficiency anemia is linked to losing your hearing so try to eat a diet rich in iron. A vitamin/mineral rich diet is recommended.
Know your family history
While knowing your family history won’t directly prevent hearing loss, it will help you know if you’re at elevated risk. Catching it early can reduce your risk of the negative impacts of hearing loss, such as cognitive decline, depression and social isolation.
Be aware of drugs that cause hearing loss
Hundreds of over-the-counter and prescription drugs are linked to hearing loss. These ototoxic drugs range from ordinary, over-the-counter medications like aspirin to chemotherapy drugs and IV antibiotics. In some cases, you may be able to take an alternative drug to reduce your risk of drug-related hearing loss. Talk to your GP if you are worries about drug impact on hearing. If there is a risk, you may be able to take an alternative drug to reduce your risk of drug-related hearing loss.
Lifestyle tips aside, many doctors can’t stress enough the importance of reducing your exposure to loud noise:
Lower your risk of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL)
Even if you’re as healthy as an Olympian and eat salads all day long, you still risk hearing damage if you don’t protect your hearing in noisy environments. Regardless of your age or your hearing status, it’s always a good idea to protect your hearing when you’re going to be exposed to loud sounds. There is nothing more damaging to your hearing.
Read more on Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).
How is hearing loss treated?
In most people, hearing loss cannot be reversed, but there are treatments available that can help you improve your hearing, including:
- hearing aids
- cochlear implants and
If you’re still concerned, or in doubt…
Get a hearing test
Preventing hearing loss means being proactive in your approach to hearing health. If you wouldn’t hesitate to have your eyes or teeth checked, it is time to add regular hearing exams to your list of check-ups. If your test indicates you already have some hearing loss, you can begin taking action to prevent it from getting worse. If you need hearing aids, your hearing professional can discuss the best options for your hearing loss, lifestyle and budget.
What are the different types of hearing loss?
There are several types of hearing loss:
- Auditory processing disorders: These occur when the brain cannot process sound. This makes it hard to understand speech or to work out where sounds are coming from.
- Conductive hearing loss: There is when there is a problem with the outer or middle ear, so sound cannot pass through to the inner ear. It may be caused by ear wax, an ear infection, a punctured ear drum, fluid in the ear or abnormal bone growth in the ear (known as otosclerosis). These conditions can usually be treated.
- Sensorineural hearing Loss: This occurs when the hearing organ, the cochlea, and/or the auditory nerve are damaged or malfunction so they are unable to accurately send electrical information to the brain. Sensorineural hearing loss is almost always permanent.
- Mixed hearing loss: With this type, there is both conductive hearing loss and sensorineural hearing loss.