Hearing loss is one of the most common physical health conditions in Los Angeles and across the U.S. It affects approximately 48 million people and can strike individuals of all ages. You probably have at least a passing knowledge of the factors most likely to contribute to hearing loss, but there are some less-obvious causes that might just surprise you.
It Goes Beyond Aging and Noise
The main causes of hearing loss in Los Angeles are pretty straightforward: aging and noise exposure. Some decline in hearing ability is natural as we age – the cumulative effects of a lifetime of noise exposure. Loud sounds can cause permanent hearing loss in people of all ages, even instantaneously in some cases. And in babies, birth defects or heredity can play a role in hearing loss.
There are other causes you are probably not aware of. The following can all lead to hearing loss in people of all ages:
- Physical health conditions. Certain medical conditions are associated with a higher incidence of hearing loss. Diabetes, for instance, doubles your risk of hearing loss, and those with high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels or a high fever are more likely to suffer from impaired hearing thanks to restricted blood and oxygen flow to the ear, which can permanently damage the nerves responsible for hearing.
- Daily sounds. Your daily environment is fraught with potential risk from things you might not even give a second thought. Live on a busy street? Constant traffic can take its toll on your hearing, even if you never leave the house. If you do commute, public transportation is notoriously noisy, as well. Even your appliances can cause harm! Hair dryers, dishwashers, vacuum cleaners, garbage disposals, washers and dryers can all be surprisingly noisy. Look for decibel ratings of 85 dB or lower (this information can often be found in the product manual or website).
- Music. Sure, a noisy rock concert could wreak havoc with your hearing if you don’t wear earplugs. But many of us listen to music through headphones or earbuds on a daily basis, never considering that this can be just as harmful to our hearing. Keep the volume set to no more than 60 percent of maximum and take frequent breaks to give your ears a rest. Consider investing in noise-cancelling headphones, which block external noise so you won’t have to turn up the volume in order to hear your favorite tunes. Do you work out at the gym? Group exercise classes (spinning, aerobics, etc.) are often accompanied by loud music in order to motivate you to keep moving. Throw a pair of earplugs into your gym bag to be on the safe side.
- Medical treatments. Sometimes, treating a health condition can inadvertently cause serious side effects, such as hearing loss. There are over 200 medications that can harm your ears, including many commonly-prescribed diuretics, antibiotics and chemotherapy drugs. Even over-the-counter pain relievers like aspirin and ibuprofen can damage your hearing at high enough doses. If you’re experiencing signs of hearing loss after beginning a new drug regimen, talk to your doctor about finding an alternative medicine. Other health conditions, such as ear infections, excess earwax and balance disorders can also cause temporary or permanent hearing loss. It’s always wise to seek medical treatment if you’re experiencing any of these.
Contact your Los Angeles audiologist today to learn more.