We often overlook the importance of prioritizing hearing health. Hearing loss is one of the most prevalent chronic conditions that people of all ages experience. In the U.S., nearly 1 in 5 people have some degree of impaired hearing, impacting over 48 million people.
Damaged hearing is permanent which is why practicing safety measures is incredibly important. Protecting your hearing can significantly reduce your risk of developing hearing loss and improve the quality of your hearing. There are several ways you can take care of your ears and hearing. Useful tips for your daily life include:
1. Wear Protective Gear
Exposure to loud noise is a major cause of hearing loss. One time or consistent absorption of loud noise can damage the hair cells that are in the inner ear. There are thousands of hair cells in each ear which help the brain process incoming sound. These cells do not regenerate, meaning that damage and loss of sensitivity is permanent. Millions of people are exposed to sound at increased levels on a daily basis. According to the Hearing Health Foundation:
– 30 million people are exposed to hazardous noise levels in the workplace
– Musicians are 4 times more likely to develop hearing loss
– 40% of people, ages 12-35, are exposed to dangerous levels of sound at entertainment venues
A useful way to reduce the impact of loud noise is to wear protective gear which can include: earmuffs, ear plugs, and headphones. Either worn in the ear or over the ear, this protective wear serves as a barrier, minimizing the amount/impact of sound that is absorbed.
2. Maintain Low Volume
Sound is measured in units known as decibels(dB) and noise above 85dB is potentially harmful for hearing. One way we are easily exposed to this level of sound is by listening to audio on personal devices (through headphones). According to the World Health Organization:
– 1.1 billion teens and young adults are at risk of noise induced hearing loss
– 50% of people, ages 12-35, are exposed to unsafe noise from personal audio devices
Personal audio devices (cellphone, speaker) can get up to 100dB which is hazardous for hearing. So, it is important to maintain appropriate levels of volume. You can identify decibels by downloading an app that measures sound! Another useful tip to apply is to turn down the volume if people have to talk loudly to have a conversation.
3. Take Listening Breaks
Our ears need time to rest and recover from constantly absorbing and processing sound. Implementing listening breaks during your day is a simple way to protect your hearing. This involves muting or turning off sources of noise (music, television, podcast etc.), and resting in a quiet environment. You can also take this time to enjoy quieter activities like reading, drawing, completing a puzzle etc. Taking listening breaks allows the hair cells in the inner ear to recover from all the movement that is required to translate soundwaves.
4. Prevent Ear Infections
A common source of ear infections is water that remains in the ear after swimming (also known as swimmers’ ear). A helpful way to prevent this type of ear infection is to thoroughly drain/dry the ears. This is especially important for people who wear hearing aids. Wearing earplugs for swimming can also be really useful; these earplugs block water from entering the ears.
Another tip is to not use cotton swabs to remove earwax! Experts do not recommend using cotton swabs because they can easily push earwax further into the ear. This can lead to an accumulation of earwax in the ear and the buildup of bacteria causing an ear infection.
5. Get Hearing Tested Regularly
An effective way to be proactive about your hearing health is to incorporate hearing tests in annual health screenings. Getting your hearing tested regularly allows you to stay on top of your hearing health and identify any issues. Early intervention is incredibly helpful in treating any hearing loss. Hearing tests are painless and noninvasive. Conducted by a hearing healthcare specialist, hearing tests measure hearing ability in both ears. This establishes your hearing needs and informs specific care to meet those needs.