With hearing loss affecting more than 80 million Americans to some degree, the health of our ears has become a significant issue. But while many of us take steps to protect our teeth, our hearts and our joints from the ravages our environment, few of us actively protect our ears.
The good news is that hearing loss is not an inevitable process: there are things that you can do right now to prevent problems with your ears now and in the future. Take a look at these helpful ideas.
Keep your ears protected at work
Noisy working environments can be a hazard to ear health. Those who work on construction sites, in factories, bars and clubs are at heightened risk.
Employers, in general, have a duty to protect your ears, so make sure that you follow their safety advice, including wearing noise-canceling ear muffs and in-ear foam earplugs. Also, ensure that you’re never exposed to loud noises for an extended period of time, as prolonged exposure can lead to permanent damage to the sensitive tissues of the inner ear. Finally, look for ways to work in quiet environments, if possible. Speak to your manager if you are concerned.
Protect your ears when listening to music
Listening to music on full volume can be an enjoyable experience, but it can also lead to damage to your ears. Just as with loud noises at work, you should take precautions when listening to music too.
Most hearing experts recommend that you avoid exposing yourself to noises louder than 85 decibels for long periods of time. For reference, 85 decibels is about the loudness of busy, congested traffic. Most people using in-ear headphones, however, often experience sounds over 100 decibels – considerably louder than the consensus “safe levels.”
To protect your ears, use noise-canceling headphones instead of earbuds. Noise-canceling headphones eliminate sound from the environment, allowing you to listen to music unimpeded at lower volumes. Also, if you like to listen to music for long periods of time – say while you’re working – then take a break for a few minutes every hour or so to allow your ears to recover. Finally, if you want to maintain your hearing for the long-term, respect the limits that device manufacturers put in place on mobile phones and MP3 players. These limits – usually 60 percent of the maximum volume, represent the safety threshold, below which your ears should be protected.
Remove earwax properly
You might think that removing earwax is as simple as picking up a cotton swab and fishing it out. But it turns out that the way we clean our ears can impact our long-term ability to detect sounds. Swabbing ears with cotton buds is not recommended because it can cause earwax to become impacted and damage the eardrum itself. Rather than risk damaging sensitive tissues in the ear, only use ear cleaning methods recommended by professionals, such as irrigation with mineral oil and saline solutions.
Smoking is bad for your heart, lungs and oral health – most people already know this. But did you know that it can have additional effects on your ears, too? Smoking can damage the sensitive tissues around the ears and cause degeneration that can lead to a long-term decline in function. Stopping smoking and your exposure to it can better protect your hearing ability.
Get a hearing checkup
The vast majority of people don’t detect declines in their capacity to hear over time because it’s such a gradual process. Getting your hearing tested regularly, therefore, is essential. Rather than just guessing, hearing tests provide an objective measure of the condition of your ears and whether you need to begin taking steps to protect your remaining capacity.
During a hearing check-up, a hearing instrument specialist will test whether you can hear certain tones or speech patterns and examine your ear for any obvious visible problems. If it is discovered that you have hearing loss, the hearing instrument specialist will be able to recommend the best form of treatment, typically hearing aids.
Hearing aids today are incredibly discreet and you can select from a variety of styles to meet your lifestyle, hearing loss and budget needs. Additionally, hearing aids can be equipped with features that make your day-to-day life easier. If you’re ready to have your hearing tested, speak to one of our hearing instrument specialists at the Beck Hearing Aid Centre by calling (888) 618-3778. We are happy to talk about ways you can prevent hearing loss.