Hearing Loss Prevention: Loud Noises We Hear Daily
Posted: 02/07/2013 10:14 am EST
By Nancy Kalish

Hearing loss is reaching epidemic proportions — and not just among people who play their music too loud.

We all expect to go a little bit deaf when we get older. But in this era of ubiquitous Bluetooths and iPods, hearing loss is starting younger than ever before. According to researchers at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, one in five people between 48 and 59 is already experiencing a deficit. And a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that a record one in five teens is suffering from hearing loss, as well. Here’s how to turn down the volume in your environment before it’s too late.

Swallow Some Protection

Inside our ears lie thousands of hairlike cells that turn sound waves into electrical signals so the brain can interpret what we hear. But very loud noise generates free radicals that damage those cells — sometimes permanently. The U.S. military has been pouring money into research on prevention, and it’s paying off. A clinical trial revealed that an over-the-counter supplement called N-acetylcysteine worked much better than earplugs alone at minimizing damage in Marines exposed to gunfire. Researcher Richard D. Kopke, MD, recommends taking 1,200 milligrams 12 hours before you’re bombarded by loud noise (say, at a sporting event). If the noise is unexpected, pop 1,200 milligrams as soon as possible and take 900 to 1,200 milligrams three times a day, with meals, for the next 14 days.

A daily 167-milligram dose of magnesium also seems to offer preventive protection, according to a study by the Israeli military. This could be because magnesium helps promote blood flow (poor blood flow puts stress on the cells of the inner ear).

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