Brush up on these helpful hints for helping to prevent hearing loss.
According to the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), about 15 percent of people experience some form of hearing loss. Age is the strongest predictor, but other factors like genetics and exposure to loud noise can also play a role. While age and genetics are beyond our control, there are some strategies you can follow to help protect your ears. Keep these practical, tried-and-true hearing loss prevention tips in your back pocket:
- Wear hearing protection
- Limit exposure to loud noises
- Remove earwax properly
- Review your medication risks
- Have your hearing regularly tested
- Avoid smoking
Read more about each of these hearing loss prevention tips below.
Wear hearing protection
Properly fitted hearing protection can help shield you from the damaging noises present in our day-to-day lives. Some of the common culprits include construction sites, traffic, concerts, sporting events, and household appliances like vacuums and hairdryers. If you know you’re going to be around loud sounds, use hearing protection tools such as:
- Earplugs – Made of foam or rubber, earplugs go directly in your ear canal and can reduce noise by 15 to 30 decibels. While they are inexpensive to buy from most stores, if you are exposed to loud noises frequently, it may be best to get a custom-fit pair from your audiologist or hearing health professional.
- Earmuffs – These over-the-ear devices help reduce sounds by 15 to 30 decibels and fit tightly over both ears to block noise. For small children and adults with known ear sensitivities, we recommend earmuffs over earplugs, as described in our combination approach below.
- Combination – If you’re planning to participate in a noisy activity like a concert or snow blowing the driveway, consider using a combination of these hearing protective tools. Layering earmuffs over earplugs can increase your degree of protection.
Limit or avoid exposure to loud noises
This hearing loss prevention tip is a simple reminder to limit or avoid exposure to excessively loud noises and sounds. If you must be in a noisy environment, be sure to wear hearing protection and take breaks. Avoiding and limiting overall exposure time can help prevent noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) from occurring.
How loud is too loud? Review our guide to safe vs. dangerous decibel levels to know what tools, appliances, and events are within the safe zone – and which aren’t.
Remove earwax safely
Excessive earwax buildup can be irritating and muffle sounds, but be sure not to use tools like cotton swabs, hairpins, or other sharp instruments to remove it. They can push the wax further into your ear canal and damage your eardrum. Instead, visit your doctor or audiologist to have your earwax removed. If you want to clean your ears, wash your outer ear gently with a warm washcloth to loosen buildup.
Why does earwax exist in the first place? Discover the answers to commonly asked questions about earwax on our blog.
Review your medication risks
Some antibiotics, cancer-fighting drugs, and other prescription medication can put you at risk for hearing damage. Check with your doctor to learn more about the side effects and potential risks of any new medication and how it could impact your hearing. During treatment, be sure your doctor checks your hearing regularly to monitor its effects on your health.
Find some common medications that can impact hearing health here.
Have your hearing regularly tested
When was the last time you had a hearing test? Visiting your audiologist regularly and completing hearing tests is one of the best hearing loss prevention tips to remember. These practitioners can help you find your baseline hearing level, identify potential problems early and provide personalized advice on hearing loss prevention. In some cases, you may not even always have to see a specialist – some doctors can do a hearing test during your annual physical.
Research suggests that tobacco can increase the risk of hearing loss. According to one report, smokers were 60 percent more likely to develop high-frequency hearing loss compared to non-smokers. Combine this risk with the numerous other adverse health effects associated with smoking, and you have a convincing argument for avoiding tobacco use and vaping products.
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