Do you have trouble hearing the television? Here are seven simple steps to improve your hearing

Hearing loss is something we associate with older age, but it is increasingly affecting younger people as well.

An analysis published this year in the journal BMJ Global Health found that more than a billion teens and young people worldwide are at risk of hearing loss due to their use of phones or headphones and exposure to loud noise at concerts.

While you can’t reverse hearing loss, recent research has uncovered ways you can improve hearing sensitivity and prevent further deterioration.

Sing in the shower

A crucial step is improving your perception of speech in noise. This is the ability to identify words when there is background noise, such as other people talking. A problem with the perception of speech in noise is often the first sign of hearing loss.

It is believed that more than a billion teens and young people are at risk of hearing loss as a result of using their phones and headphones

Singing has been proven to help because it “improves our ability to detect subtle pitch and timing differences or melody recognition and prediction – and these skills are also important for speech recognition, especially in noisy environments,” says Doris-Eva Bamiou, professor of neuroaudiology. at University College London.

A 2019 study in the journal Frontiers of Neuroscience of more than 50 people ages 54 to 79 found that those who participated in weekly two-hour group choir sessions for 10 weeks experienced a 10 to 20 percent improvement in speech intelligibility compared to a control group that did nothing.

And it doesn’t have to be in a choir; singing to yourself in the car or in the shower can help because it “involves voice production and speech monitoring in a rhythm,” says Professor Bamiou.

‘Rhythm acts as a platform for the brain,’ she says, ‘and this helps skills such as understanding speech in noise.’

Musical training also improves brain function and this in turn appears to lead to larger areas in the auditory cortex, the area of ​​the brain that deciphers sound, she adds.

Difficulty hearing

If you don’t use the auditory cortex it can become lazy, so train it by listening carefully to something. “There is some evidence that passively listening to a story, such as an audiobook, can improve speech intelligibility,” says Professor Bamiou.

Michael Marchant, audiologist and head of professional services at Hidden Hearing, adds: ‘Another good exercise is to play a piece of music and try to isolate the different instruments being played or the words being sung, rather than to listen passively.

“You can even try it from another room or play it softly so your ears have to strain to hear it.”

To benefit from it, you need to do the training consistently a few times a week for several weeks, says Professor Bamiou.

Practice regularly

Cardiovascular exercises promote healthy blood flow to the inner ear, which is crucial for healthy hearing.

Regular workouts can even slow age-related hearing loss, according to a 2016 study in mice in the Journal of Neuroscience.

‘The inner ear is a network of small blood vessels and they depend on the oxygen and nutrients that come with good blood flow,’ says Michael Marchant.

“It doesn’t have to be powerful; anything that gets your heart rate up will do, such as fast walking. It not only protects against hearing loss, but can help prevent further deterioration if you already have it.”

Stop multitasking

“We are more likely to be good listeners if we are not trying to do other things at the same time, because our attention is a finite resource,” says Professor Bamiou. ‘If we are present in the moment and are not unconsciously afraid that we will mishear something, we hear better. Mindfulness could therefore help.’

Eat for your ears

A large study – the Conservation of Hearing Study – followed 71,000 women aged 27 to 44 for twenty years.

It found that those whose diets most resembled the AMED (Alternative Mediterranean Diet Score) or DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) approaches had an approximately 30 percent lower risk of hearing loss than women whose diets were least similar.

The DASH diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products, with whole grains, fish, nuts and poultry, with little red meat or sugar.

One way to improve hearing sensitivity is to improve your speech-in-noise perception.  This is the ability to identify words when there is background noise.

One way to improve hearing sensitivity is to improve your speech-in-noise perception. This is the ability to identify words when there is background noise.

The AMED diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts and olive oil and a lower consumption of animal products and saturated fat.

The researchers said these dietary approaches help lower cholesterol levels, blood pressure and inflammation.

“High cholesterol and high blood pressure can damage blood vessels and reduce the supply of blood and oxygen to the cochlea (the fluid-filled area in the inner ear that plays a crucial role in hearing),” said lead researcher Professor Sharon Curhan, one of the researchers. physician and epidemiologist at Mass General Brigham in the US

“Lower cholesterol levels and healthy blood pressure can help maintain healthy vascular function and ensure the supply of blood and oxygen to the hearing structures,” she told Good Health.

‘As for inflammation, too much can directly damage the cells responsible for hearing and reduce blood flow to the cochlea.’

Lower blood sugar levels

Hearing loss is twice as common in people with diabetes, and in people with prediabetes (where blood sugar levels are higher than normal), the rate of hearing loss is 30 percent higher.

“Research is ongoing to determine the exact mechanisms, but diabetes is known to cause microangiopathy (damage to the smallest blood vessels) in the ear and disrupt the chemical state of the fluids in the inner ear,” says Kathy Dowd, audiologist and director . from The Audiology Project, which raises awareness of the link between diabetes and hearing loss.

‘It is also known that high blood sugar levels in diabetes can damage the protective covering around a nerve that carries both auditory and vestibular (i.e. balance system) signals to the brain.’

Microangiopathy due to diabetes also occurs in the brain, which can affect cognition and processing of what you hear.

“People with diabetes should keep their blood sugar and blood pressure as normal as possible to prevent further deterioration,” says Kathy Dowd.

Get checked

Finally, have your hearing checked. “If we catch problems early, you have a much better chance of preserving what’s left and fending off the cognitive decline that comes with hearing loss,” says Michael Marchant.

‘It’s a use it or lose it situation: the brain is resourceful and if an area is not being used it can start to reorient itself and use it for other purposes.

‘People over 50 must be screened once a year, but go sooner if you have complaints.’