Hearing Loss Prevention

Protect your hearing

Our hearing is a precious commodity. Sounds connect us to other people, memories, and activities we enjoy. Hearing enhances our life and learning experiences. To enjoy all the sounds of your life, properly caring for your ears is the best way to prevent hearing loss and protect all that your hearing does for you.

Prevent noise-induced hearing loss

Though some forms of hearing loss caused by genetic defects at birth, or though the natural aging process, may not be able to be prevented, there is one type of hearing loss that is complete preventable: noise-induced hearing loss. 

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is very common and it can happen at any age. It can occur from a sudden loud noise at a high-decible level, like a gunshot or explosion, or from repeated exposure to moderate loud noises (above 85 dB) over time. 

The rule of thumb for unprotected ears is that the allowed exposure time decreases by one-half for each 5 dB increase in the sound. For instance, you can listen to a 90 dB sound (motorcycle, lawn mower, construction equipment) for eight hours per day, a 95 dB sound (boats, 4-wheelers, jackhammers) for four hours per day and a 100 dB (outdoor concerts, fireworks) sound for two hours per day. Learn more with this helpful decibel chart and the quick tips below. 

Tips for hearing loss prevention

Take a look at these simple yet effective tips to protect your hearing and prevent hearing loss.

Step away from loud environments

Musical concerts and movies offer wonderful experiences but can hurt your hearing. Consider wearing hearing protection if you are in a loud commercial, industrial, or recreational environment. Protect yourself whenever you’re firing guns or near people who are. Avoid loud rock concerts - or at least wear earplugs if you do attend.

Address ear wax build up

Ear wax is important—it keeps our ears protected and moisturized. But when the body produces too much, it can build up, become impacted and prevent sound from entering the ear. Ear blockage from wax is actually one of the most common causes of conductive hearing loss, or hearing loss when sound is blocked from reaching the inner ear.

The good news? This type of hearing loss is usually temporary; with prompt removal of the impacted ear wax, hearing can normally be restored. However, ear wax left untreated for too long may lead to more permanent hearing loss.

Think your ear wax is out of control? Your doctor can determine if the wax in your ears is normal and perform a simple procedure to clear up any blockage. Just don't try to remove it on your own, especially with cotton swabs, which can actually push the wax further into your ear canal, causing more issues. 

Get your hearing tested

Some hearing problems can be treated if they’re caught early. Don’t hesitate to ask your doctor for a hearing test if you feel uncertain about your ability to hear. Or, visit any one of our provider locations to get your hearing checked.

Avoid flying when you have a cold

If you’ve ever traveled by plane, you’ve probably experienced a “popping” sensation in your ears during takeoff and landing. This phenomenon is commonly known as “airplane ear.”

This effect occurs thanks to our Eustachian tubes, passageways on each side of the head that connect the upper part of the throat to the middle ear. They help drain fluid and equalize air pressure between the nose and ear. As air pressure rapidly builds and drops during flight, our ears feel blocked, becoming difficult to hear. When our ears “pop,” it’s a sign that the Eustachian tubes are doing their job of equalizing air pressure in the middle ear.

Typically, chewing gum, swallowing, and yawning help open the Eustachian tubes and restore normal hearing. However, flying while congested can create complications that lead to temporary or, in some cases, permanent hearing loss.

Congestion causes swelling to the tissues lining the Eustachian tubes and makes it difficult to equalize air pressure, leading to severe ear pain. When this occurs, your ears won’t pop after landing, and you may experience difficulty hearing for several days. In more serious cases, the pressure may cause your eardrum to burst. 

It’s best to avoid air travel if you have a sinus infection or cold (to not only spare your ears but your fellow passengers, as well), but if you must fly, there are ideas to protect your hearing and minimize discomfort.

  • Take a nasal decongestant. These medications help reduce swelling and open the passageway of the Eustachian tube. It’s a good idea to take the decongestant 2 to 3 hours before your anticipated flight arrival time, so they are most effective during the landing period when pressure tends to be the most severe. 
  • Keep candy handy. In mild cases, sucking and swallowing sweets may help to open the Eustachian tubes. 

Manage your stress

Stress in small doses has its advantages, but excessive stress can be crippling to your mental and physical health. Chronic stress saps energy and weakens the immune system, leaving us more prone to all kinds of health issues - ranging from headaches and frequent colds to long-term illnesses such as heart disease.

But how does stress affect hearing? It traces back to blood circulation. The body’s response to high-stress levels triggers an overproduction of adrenaline that can reduce blood flow to the inner ear - or disrupt it completely - and result in hearing loss.

Significant long-term stress often leads to hypertension (high blood pressure), which is another condition linked to hearing loss and tinnitus. Hypertension has been shown to accelerate age-related hearing loss and is a common cause of pulsatile tinnitus, an affliction characterized by a pulsing noise in the ear.

While too much stress can result in hearing damage and tinnitus, living with these conditions may also add to the stress in your life. It’s important to find healthy ways to cope with emotional stress, whether that involves exercising regularly, spending more time in nature, or seeking the support of a therapist.

Healthy eating

Diet has been found to play a crucial role in both our health and the way we hear. While there’s no hard-set rule for which types of foods you should eat for hearing loss prevention, practicing sound dietary habits today may go a long way in helping you hear better tomorrow.

Quit smoking

Did you know that smokers may be up to 70% more likely to develop hearing loss? [1] In addition to the risk to your hearing health, smoking has long been associated with many other health conditions, including cancer, heart disease, and more. Your ears are just one more reason to rethink lighting up.

Minimize use of Ototoxic medications

Certain medications, like some NSAIDs and diuretics, are classified as ototoxic, which means that they literally poison your ears over time. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist to see if any medication you're currently taking is ototoxic and whether or not there may be an alternative that you could take.

Workplace hearing protection

Many people are at higher risk of hearing loss due to their job or career. Take a look at some common professions exposed to loud noise and what you can do to protect your hearing in the workplace.

  • Musicians: Hearing protection is recommended for musicians or other professions associated with music production and live shows. The sound of drums can easily reach over 100 dB, which means you can only listen for a few minutes without protection before your risk damage to your ears and hearing. In addition to earplugs, noise-canceling headphones can ensure that you can listen to your music at safe levels.
  • Construction workers: Did you know that the noise from a power drill typically registers at 90 dB? Since it’s important to protect your hearing from any noise over 85 dB, construction workers are constantly at risk of damaging their hearing. Many construction workers benefit from working outside, which can help alleviate the impact of noisy machinery. However, wearing earplugs or earmuffs is a must on the construction site.
  • Factory workers: One of the most common complaints of factory workers is excessive noise. In addition to the loud machinery they work with all day, there are also commonly large fans running throughout the day. While it’s common for workers to wear earplugs or earmuffs while working in a factory, things can be done to reduce the noise at its source, including adding a silencer to equipment or creating an enclosure around, particularly loud machinery.
  • Military: We often overlook the most common military service-related injury: hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Although the military has been implementing hearing conservation programs for decades, many veterans still return home with some degree of hearing loss. Permanent hearing damage is often a direct result of sudden, loud explosions, the roar of airplane or ship engines, or even gunfire (110+ dB).
  • Airport workers: Airport workers are often exposed to equipment and machinery such as engines, generators, and compressors. With the sound of a jet plane taking off reaching over 140 dB, you can imagine why protecting your hearing while on the tarmac would be important. Just like many other professions, earplugs or earmuffs are a must.
[1] https://www.audiologyandhearing.com/how-are-smoking-and-hearing-loss-related/#:~:text=Compared%20to%20nonsmokers%2C%20smokers%20have,risk%20of%20developing%20hearing%20loss.

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