While traveling and enjoying active senior living, do your best to protect your ears from noise-induced hearing loss. Here are the potential travel hazards that can put your hearing at risk, and some tips to protect your ears:

During air travel

Most people are well aware of “airplane ears” – a usually short-lasting symptom from flying that results from the change in pressure between the outer and middle ears. These symptoms often make your ears feel stuffy and uncomfortable, giving off a “popping” feeling, but they can also include slight hearing loss or tinnitus in the ears. Airplane ear is typically a hazard during takeoffs and landings, as the change in pressure is extreme and sudden due to rapid elevation.

You can protect against airplane ear and the possible hearing loss or tinnitus that come with it in a few different ways. Many people recommend chewing gum or yawning during takeoff and landings, which keeps the Eustachian tubes open. You can also a purchase a nasal spray specifically for this use, or take an antihistamine before flying if you are already congested.

Other sources of NIHL

​Aside from airplane ear, just flying in general can be a hazard for noise-induced hearing loss. For example, if you’re sitting toward the back of the airplane, sounds can reach higher than 85 decibels – potentially clocking up to 100 decibels depending on the aircraft and seat location. This is because that is where the airplane’s engine is located. However, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the threshold for listening to sounds at 88 decibels or more is four hours, which is concerning for people on longer flights.

Additionally, in a 2009 study in Perspectives on Audiology, researchers found that passengers in loud environments turn their earphones up an average of five decibels to drown out the other noises, such as when a baby next to them is screaming. A baby’s scream can reach up to a dangerous 115 decibels, but turning your music up louder is not the best thing to do. Instead, keep some foam earplugs or noise-canceling headphones with you and wear them when things seem too loud. This is a much better way to protect your ears.

In the city

When you’re visiting a very large or busy city while on vacation, you should know what else to watch out for. Common sources of noise that can be damaging to your hearing include:

  • The subway or city train
  • Emergency sirens
  • City traffic
  • Car horns
  • Motorcycles
  • Jackhammers and construction zones
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