You can’t always prevent hearing loss, but you can always try! Late-onset hearing loss can be the result of prolonged exposure to high levels of noise, medications, gene mutations, or even health issues such as high blood pressure, heart conditions, or diabetes. While you can’t control your genes, it’s never too late to protect your hearing.
1. Wear Earplugs at Work
Did you know that hearing loss is the most common work-related injury? If you work in a loud environment such as a nightclub or music venue or in an industry such as mining, manufacturing, or construction, then it’s time to invest in some comfortable earplugs. USA Today reported that approximately 22 million American workers are exposed to hazardous noise levels at work and that more than $242 million is spent on worker’s compensation annually for hearing loss disability. For pennies a pair, you can purchase earplugs from your otolaryngologist. For a comfortable, custom fit, the hearing experts at OAT can create custom earmolds or specialty earplugs for musicians or hunters.
2. Don’t Pump Up the Volume
As tempting as it may be to kick up the jams, we’re here to tell you to keep your fingers off the volume dial. The World Health Organization reported that “1.1 billion teenagers and young adults are at risk of hearing loss due to the unsafe use of personal audio devices, including smartphones, and exposure to damaging levels of sound at noisy entertainment venues such as nightclubs, bars, and sporting events...Hearing loss has potentially devastating consequences for physical and mental health, education, and employment.”
3. Use the 60/60 Rule
Okay, we get it. You live in Nashville and you love the Nashville Sound. Don’t worry, we agree; music is a wonderful thing. So preserve your ability to hear those sweet Country refrains by following the 60/60 rule: if you listen to music through earbuds or headphones, plan on listening with the volume at no more than 60% for no more than 60 minutes per day.
4. Give Your Ears a Break
If your ears feel tired, that’s because they probably are. These hardworking sensory organs keep you safe from danger, engaged in the world around you, in touch with popular culture, and attuned to your loved ones. If you’ve been exposed to high decibel levels for extended periods of time, plan on giving your ears time to rest and recover.
Better Hearing Institute notes that “When sound is sufficient to cause hearing loss, most often there is a temporary loss of hearing sensitivity, known as temporary threshold shift (TTS). You likely have experienced this after attending a loud concert or working with loud tools or machinery. If the ear is given time to rest (typically 16 to 48 hours of relative quiet) the TTS recovers back to baseline hearing. With repeated occurrence, this TTS does not recover, and instead becomes a permanent threshold shift. How quickly this happens varies from one person to the next, and depends on how high was the offending sound exposure.”
5. Put the Q-Tip Down and Step Away From the Bathroom
We covered this one at length in our post, Are Q-tips Good or Bad For My Ears, but in case you didn’t hear us the first time, it bears repeating: Q-tips are bad for your ears. While it may feel great to “clean” your ears with a Q-tip, you’re actually making it harder for your ears to clean themselves and increasing the likelihood of causing serious, permanent damage to your ears.
6. Keep Your Ears Clean and Dry
While we can’t endorse the Q-tip, we do recommend that you keep your ears clean and dry. Too much moisture in your ears can allow bacteria to grow and attack your ear canal. This may cause swimmer’s ear or other kinds of ear infections. Be sure to gently towel-dry your ears after being submerged in water, whether it’s bathwater or the local pool. If you have water in your ear, tilt your ear and give your earlobe a gentle tug. Often, the water will trickle right out. If your water situation is a little more dire, the Mayo Clinic recommends this effective remedy: mix one part white vinegar to one part rubbing alcohol to help promote drying and prevent bacterial and fungal growth.
If you spend a lot of time in the water, you may want to consider custom swim plugs.
7. Check Your Medications
One of the sad facts about aging is that minor aches have a tendency to become major, chronic pains. If, like many Americans, you’re turning to NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), acetaminophen, or aspirin for relief, then you may be putting yourself at risk for hearing loss. A study conducted by researchers throughout the country found a significant correlation between the regular use of painkillers and hearing loss.
8. If You Smoke, Quit
If you were looking for one last reason to quit smoking, we’ve got it: smoking causes hearing loss. “Researchers calculated that smokers were 15.1% more likely to develop hearing loss, compared with passive smokers and non-smokers, while passive smokers were 28% more likely to develop hearing loss than non-smokers” (Medical News Today).
9. Seek Medical Attention for Ear Infections
Although ear infections are more common in children, they can happen to adults as well. The more frequent your infections, the more likely you are to suffer from permanent hearing loss. Not only that, but the longer an infection goes untreated, the more damage it can wreak. If you think you have an ear infection, see a doctor for treatment immediately.
10. Try Meditation or Exercise
If you have a stressful lifestyle, try meditating or exercise. Both stress and anxiety have been linked to temporary or permanent tinnitus. The more stress your body is under, the more pressure is exerted on your body systems. Meditation and exercise are both great ways to maintain a healthy blood pressure and flow of blood and oxygen to your body.
Concerned about hearing loss? Contact OAT for a hearing screening today.