Despite the rapid growth of hearing loss—which is now the third most common health problem in the United States, there is little national attention. Many people don’t understand how to avoid or prevent damage to hearing, how to recognize subtle changes in hearing, or even how often to see an audiologist. Below are tips for three key areas, prevention, symptoms, and nutrition that everyone should be made aware of when it comes to hearing loss.
- Avoid: listening to MP3 or other devices that use headphones for too long or at too high level. MP3 players can damage hearing, especially when used with earbuds, which increase decibel levels.
- Monitor: there is no monitor on work equipment that says, “dangerous level of decibels”, and none on gym equipment, work tools, or lawnmowers, but all of these situations require protective hearing devices. Muffling the sound limits exposure and the damaging of the delicate hair cells within the inner ear.
- Visit: make routine visits to your audiologists. Hearing fitness is something that needs to be taken as seriously as eye care. Having your hearing checked regularly will keep you aware of your ears and any damage that needs to be addressed.
- Repeating: Asking to have things repeated often can be a sign of hearing loss. Don’t dismiss the possibility, because you only ask for repetition during certain situations—on the cell phone, when speaking to a female, or a child. These are all signs of higher level hearing loss.
- Volume: Does your spouse accuse you of not paying attention or of turning up the volume on the television too loud your spouse might think you are being rude, but in actuality these are signs of hearing loss.
- Avoidance: Do you find yourself making excuses to avoid going to a public place? Does the idea of going out make you anxious? Often people don’t pursue these feelings, assuming they are emotional, but in fact they can be the first signs that you are uncomfortable communicating with others due to hearing loss. Hearing loss is more pronounced in social situations where there is an increase in background noise.
- Foods to avoid: An Australian study reported on in the Journal of Nutrition, has shown that diets high in sugar and carbohydrates detrimentally impacts hearing. A similar study showed that diets high in cholesterol also contribute to hearing loss normally associated with aging.
- Foods to increase: Antioxidants like B12, folic acid, Omega 3, and vitamin A are important because they help fight off damage free radicals can do to hearing. Antioxidants are found in high quantities in healthy leafy greens and other foods like lentils, dried beans, and bananas.