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Although most people accept hearing loss as another “normal” part of getting older, it really is much more complex than that. The intricacies of the human ear, the elaborate way our brain interprets sound and even the different professionals that help with hearing loss all paint a very different picture of what hearing loss is actually about.

Take a look at some of the fascinating facts you may not know about hearing loss and the professionals who treat it.

1. Hearing loss has been linked to cognitive decline in older adults.

Recent research has indicated that hearing loss contributes to cognitive decline in a few ways, including overloading the brain, negatively impacting brain structure and pushing patients toward social isolation. Older adults with hearing loss are also at more risk of developing dementia than those without.

2. There are big differences between an audiologist and a hearing aid dispenser.

They both help with your hearing, but hearing aid dispensers don’t have nearly the same skills and training that audiologists do. Audiologists specialize in identifying the causes of hearing problems and recommending treatment based on your needs. They are trained to provide diagnostic testing, therapy services, the fitting of hearing aids and rehabilitative therapy for people with all types of hearing loss. A hearing aid dispenser is not fully qualified to diagnose or treat any type of hearing loss. They are only licensed to sell hearing aids and trained to do hearing assessments.

3. Hearing loss can affect your taste.

According to the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), damage to your ears can throw off your perception of taste. This is because a certain nerve known as the chorda tympani—which runs through the ear and connects the taste buds on the front of your tongue to your brain—can change your sense of taste following surgical procedures performed on the ear.

4. Excessive noise exposure is the number one cause of hearing loss.

As stated, many think that hearing loss is related to one’s age. While that is true to some degree, the reality is that most reported hearing loss is due to excessive exposure to noise. That doesn’t just refer to going to one very loud concert either. Patients who are not diligent about protecting their hearing while working can suffer hearing loss over time. Anything from working in construction, walking around a city or listening to music with headphones at a desk can put you at risk for damaging your hearing.

5. Certain foods may help prevent hearing loss

Certain minerals found in the food you eat may help keep your hearing health in check and hearing loss at bay. These include:

  • Folic acid, found in foods like broccoli, asparagus and organ meats, helps the body break down homocysteine, an inflammatory amino acid that reduces circulation. (Blood flow is important for good hearing health). Folic acid also stimulates cell growth.
  • Potassium is responsible for regulating the amount of fluid in the blood and tissues in the body, including fluid in the inner ear. A natural drop in the inner-ear fluid over time can result in age-related hearing loss (presbycusis). Potassium-rich foods include potatoes, raisins, spinach and bananas. Yogurt and milk are also included.
  • Magnesium, a mineral found in bananas, spinach, artichokes, tomatoes and broccoli, fights the effects of free radicals produced when the inner ear experiences loud noises.

Zinc is the mineral known for helping cell growth and helping the body combat infection, including ear infections that can damage hearing. Some studies also suggest that zinc may help in treating tinnitus ( a ringing or buzzing sensation in the ears). Foods rich in zinc include dark chocolate, beans, peanuts, beef, pork and oysters.

What are some ways to prevent hearing loss?

The majority of problems with hearing can be avoided by taking proper care of the delicate system of your ears. This includes:

  • Avoiding the use of cotton swabs to clean out the ears
  • Getting an annual hearing exam
  • Keeping the volume on your music player down to a reasonable level
  • Keeping your ears dry after water activities, including showering
  • Letting your ears take a break from loud situations by stepping away for a few minutes
  • Using ear protection in loud situations, even mundane ones such as mowing the lawn

There are always more things to learn about hearing loss, especially when it comes to your own hearing health. If you or a loved one is suffering from hearing loss, schedule a hearing test with one of our specialists today.