Hearing loss, as with most things in life, comes with a range of things you can do about it and a range of things that you can’t. With roughly 50 million Americans experiencing some form of loss, there are a swath of variables at play beyond simply age-related causes. One of the biggest among them —genetic predisposition, of which falls into that category of things outside of your control. That said, also like most things in life, here are the good, the bad and the ugly truths about it.
A lot of hearing loss is preventable with protection and lifestyle choices. Life may be loud, though being aware of your exposure to sounds over 85 dB (the threshold for hearing damage) for extended periods of time add years to your healthy hearing levels. Combined with earplugs and a likewise healthy diet and active lifestyle and decreasing polluting with smoke inhalation, you can give your body the best chance it has to nourish blood flow to the ears like a well-oiled machine, with only Father Time to answer to. The blood vessels in the ears are some of the smallest in the body so treat them well.
Sometimes, however, no matter what you do, your genetic predisposition sets you up for hearing loss. Whether through comorbidities like diabetes and hypertension that can reduce the above said blood flow to your ears and compromise your hearing, or other cardiovascular issues that run in your family line, there’s only so much a healthy diet and active lifestyle can protect. This applies to infants, as well, with 50% to 60% of hearing loss in babies due to genetic causes. The Connexin 26 is a protein found in the inner ear that allows potassium to be properly controlled. Hearing requires the conversion of sound waves to electrical nerve impulses. This conversion involves many processes, including maintenance of the proper level of potassium ions in the inner ear. Some studies indicate that channels made with connexin 26 help to maintain the correct level of potassium ions. Other research suggests that connexin 26 is required for the maturation of certain cells in the cochlea. Without enough connexin 26 it is believed that there is a predisposition for hearing loss.
The ugly truth
On top of genetics and ear protection, the truth of the matter is that really no matter what you do, some hearing loss may happen simply due to presbycusis (age-related). Presbycusis is not necessarily inevitable, though the numbers don’t lie and life happens. Illness, general noise exposure, ototoxic medications (ototoxic to the ears)—all of these life happenings funnel into these figures: 40% of adults over 65 years, 60% over 75, and 80% over 85 years have hearing loss.
The bonus good
The silver lining in all of this is that advancements in technology are making it so genetic predispositions are less and less of an uncontrollable factor in treating some hearing loss. Modern hearing devices are smaller and smarter than ever before, some even artificially intelligent—capable of learning and adapting to your custom hearing needs in real-time—so you can spend less time worrying about your hearing and more on living a healthy and full life.
If you or a loved one may be suffering from symptoms related to hearing loss, call Dr. Andrea Livingston at Central FL Hearing Services.