Hearing loss can be attributed to a number of things, however age-related hearing loss is most common. With that being said, it is possible to “speed up” the process if you do not protect your hearing. The progression can be accelerated by risk factors, such as health conditions, lifestyle habits and occupational hazards.
What is noise-induced hearing loss?
Noise-induced hearing loss is the leading cause of non-age-related hearing loss. Hearing healthcare clinics diagnose this type of hearing loss frequently, despite it being the only preventable hearing loss.
Choices and habits are the contributors in causing, or preventing, noise-induced hearing loss. Noise-induced hearing loss occurs gradually over time, so unfortunately there is a good chance that once detected, your hearing is already irreversibly damaged. That’s why as hearing healthcare professionals, we do our best to educate our communities on noise protection, in hopes of assisting to prevent it.
Recommendations to prevent hearing loss:
1. Use earplugs
Noise is normal — the world around us produces so much sound 24/7, and it’s impossible not to hear any of it, whether it’s your phone ringing, the TV on, traffic, or simply chatter from conversations. However, excessively loud noises, especially those that are repetitive, are a cause for concern and should be avoided if possible.
Noise-induced hearing loss typically occurs due to sustained exposure to loud noises. Often, this is work-related, such as for people who work in construction operating heavy machinery or musicians using powerful audio equipment. Other contributors can be attending a concert, or any event where there would be loud music. If you are routinely exposed to loud noises, it is highly recommended to make it a habit to wear earplugs.
Hearing healthcare clinics offer custom earplugs for professionals like musicians and construction workers as they typically work amidst harmful noise levels. By purchasing custom ear protection, it ensures a comfortable fit and that you are using the best protection possible. The benefit to these earplugs is that they are made to reduce noise, while still maintaining the original sound quality as much as possible.
2. Turn it down
Are you often told that you have the TV or music on too loud? To prevent noise-induced hearing loss, it is recommended to turn the volume down.
According to the World Health Organization, roughly 1.1 billion teens and young adults worldwide are at risk of noise-induced hearing loss simply because of their audio device listening habits. Once again, this is completely preventable by listening at a safe volume.
If you wear headphones or earbuds, follow the 60/60 rule: listen with them at no more than 60% volume for no longer than 60 minutes a day. It is also recommended to swap out your earbuds for over-the-ear headphones, as earbuds fit directly next to the eardrum, making them a lot more harmful to your hearing health.
3. Let your ears recover
When we say our bodies need rest, we mean the entire body — including the ears. Whether the loud noise exposure is one-time — as in when you attended a concert or restaurant — or routine at work, give your ears time to recover. Step outside every so often to give your ears a break from the loud noises. Hearing healthcare professionals recommend giving your ears at least 16 hours of quiet to recover after a particularly loud night out.
4. Put down the Q-tip
Cotton swabs (Q-tips) are good for many things but cleaning the ears is not one of them. Excess or dried earwax might feel satisfying to clean, but did you know that the swabbing motion just tends to push earwax deeper inside, increasing the risk of jamming it into the eardrum?
Hearing centres are no strangers to patients complaining of an earache and impacted earwax, often requiring professional earwax removal. It is important to remember that earwax is natural. It protects the ears from dust and other particles entering into the ear canal. The ears are a self-cleaning machine, so any excess earwax will fall out on its own.
As a result, it is recommended to avoid using cotton swabs in the ear at all costs, because there is the possibility of damaging your eardrum resulting in hearing loss.
5. Follow the prescription
Medications undergo rigorous trials before they are approved to go to market, but warnings for side effects remain in place. Certain medications, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen, have been known to contribute to hearing loss. It is important to take these medications only as directed, and pay attention to any side effects that may affect your hearing.
6. Keep your ears dry
Excess moisture provides a gateway for bacteria to enter the ear canal, resulting in swimmer’s ear and other types of infections that ultimately affect your hearing. Dry your ears gently after bathing or swimming, and tilt your head side to side and tug lightly on the ear lobe if you can feel water lingering inside. For maximum protection, ask your hearing centre about custom-fit earplugs to block water completely.
7. Stay healthy and active
Not only is exercise good for endorphins and calorie burn, but it gets your blood pumping to the entire body, including the ears. Good circulation keeps the ears healthy and at optimal function. Just remember to protect your ears while exercising to avoid ear trauma from falls and concussions.
Staying healthy and active can also reduce stress and anxiety, which have been linked to tinnitus or ringing in the ears. Stress activates the fight-or-flight response, resulting in adrenaline that puts pressure on the nerves, which can travel up into the inner ear and further exacerbate tinnitus symptoms.
8. Visit a hearing centre
Hearing screenings should be part of your routine primary care check-ups. Tell your doctor about any hearing problems you may be experiencing, and visit a hearing centre for a full hearing assessment to detect any hearing loss and establish a baseline. While you are never too young to start, this is especially important in your fifties and sixties and if you are routinely exposed to loud noises.
To learn more about protecting your ears from noise-induced hearing loss, call Living Sounds in Edmonton at 855-628-5153 or contact us here.