Cup of broccoli helping prevent hearing loss.

Chances are you’ve already noticed that you don’t hear as well as you once did. Despite popular belief, hearing loss isn’t caused by aging. Instead, it often progresses as you age due to decisions you may not even realize are impacting your hearing.

Most types of hearing loss is preventable with some simple lifestyle changes. Let’s explore 6 surprising secrets that can help you keep your hearing.

1. Manage Your Blood Pressure

No, it’s not okay if your blood pressure stays high, even a little. A 2013 study found that people who have above normal blood pressure are 52% more likely to develop hearing loss.

Prevent this kind of damage by taking steps to get blood pressure down. Don’t ignore it or wait to see a doctor. Blood pressure management includes proper diet, exercise, stress management and following doctors orders.

2. Stop Smoking

Here’s another reason to quit. Smokers are 15% more likely to develop hearing loss. But even more shocking is this: People regularly exposed the second-hand smoke are 28% more likely to develop hearing problems. Even if you leave the room, smoke lingers for long periods of time with damaging consequences.

Protect your hearing and consider quitting. If you spend time around a smoker, take steps to minimize exposure to second-hand smoke.

3. Keep Diabetes Under Control

One in 4 adults in the US is now either pre-diabetic or diabetic. A pre-diabetic person is highly likely to develop it within 5 years if they don’t make serious lifestyle changes.

High blood sugar damages blood vessels, which makes it very hard for them to efficiently transport nutrients. A diabetic person is more than twice as likely to have hearing loss as a non-diabetic person.

If you have diabetes, take the steps needed to manage it. If you are at risk of developing Type II Diabetes, protect your hearing by making some changes now to prevent it.

4. Lose Some Weight

This isn’t about body image or feeling great about yourself. It’s about your health. As your Body Mass Index (BMI) goes up, so does risk of hearing loss and many other health conditions. A mildly obese woman (30-34 BMI) has a 17% increased risk of developing hearing problems. For a person with 40 BMI (moderate obesity), the risk goes up to 25%.

Take steps to get the weight off. If you don’t exercise regularly, something as simple as walking for 30 minutes a day can reduce your risk and prolong your life.

5. Don’t Overuse OTC Medications

Some over-the-counter medicines can cause hearing loss. The risk goes up when these medicines are taken regularly over a prolonged period of time.

Common over-the-counter medicines that can affect hearing include aspirin, NSAIDs (naproxen, ibuprofen) and acetaminophen. Take it easy with these medications and consult your doctor if you’re taking them on a regular basis.

If you’re taking the recommended dose for the occasional headache, studies show that you’re probably okay. But taking them every day does increase the risk of hearing loss by as much as 40% in men.

Always follow doctor’s orders. But if you’re using these every day to manage chronic pain or thin your blood, talk to your doctor about lifestyle changes that may reduce your dependence on these drugs.

6. Eat More Broccoli

In addition to other nutrients your body needs like Vitamins C and K, broccoli is packed with iron. Iron is incredibly important for a healthy heart and circulation. It helps your blood transport nutrients and oxygen to cells that need it to stay alive.

If you’re a vegetarian, or just eat very little meat, it’s important that you focus on getting plant-based iron. You’re more likely to be deficient because the iron found in plants is less bioavailable than iron found in meat.

Pennsylvania State University researchers studied over 300 thousand individuals. They found that those with anemia (severe iron-deficiency) were twice as likely to develop sensorineural hearing loss. That’s the permanent hearing loss that we associate with aging.

The inner ear has tiny hair cells that pick up sound and communicate with the brain regarding the volume and frequency of that sound. If these hair cells die from poor circulation other iron deficiency complications, they can’t grow back.

You’re never too young to get your hearing tested, so don’t wait until it gets worse. Prevent hearing loss by applying these simple secrets to your life.