Humans use our hearing all the time. It helps us communicate, be aware of our surroundings and enjoy our favorite media. Unfortunately, hearing loss is often permanent. Therefore, it is important to maintain good practices to protect and care for our hearing. These six tips will help you keep your hearing health as optimal as possible.
1) Protect Your Ears in Loud Environments
About one in six Americans suffer from hearing loss caused by loud noises in their professional or recreational environments. This can be easily avoided simply by wearing appropriate ear protection.
If you are using loud machinery or in its vicinity, use proper hearing protection, ideally over-the-ear earmuffs. When going to concerts of other loud leisure activities, wear protection such as musicians’ earplugs. These specially-designed earplugs have a channel that lets in music and conversations but helps reduce harmful sound levels.
Ear protection is easy to find and convenient to use. It is absolutely worth the small effort to ensure that your hearing will be properly protected.
2) Practice Good Ear Hygiene (Skip the Q-Tips!)
Clean your ears every day to help reduce the possibility of ear infections and damage. These are some helpful cleaning tips:
- Don’t use Q-tips or other pointed objects to clean your ears. These do more harm than good. You can injure the ear canal or eardrum fairly easily with a wrong move.
- Wash the outer ear with a washcloth or tissue to remove any dirt, sweat and skin oils. Do not insert anything into your ear smaller than your elbow.
- Earwax is normal and your ear’s natural method of self-cleaning. If you experience an unusual buildup, see a doctor to have it removed.
- Clean your ear lobes regularly. If you have pierced ears, consider using rubbing alcohol to clean the pierces sites.
3) Turn the Volume Down
Avoid listening to overly loud music or other media. According to the World Health Organization, 1.1 billion people worldwide are at risk of hearing loss, mostly from unsafe volumes.
Try following the 60/60 rule: listen with the volume at no more than 60% for no longer than 60 minutes per day. This is most important if you prefer to listen with earbuds or other headphones.
Earbuds are perhaps the most dangerous type of headphones because they position the drivers right next to your eardrums. This proximity can easily damage your hearing health. Invest in some over-the-ear headphones if possible.
Keep in mind that this risk isn’t just with headphones. If you are in a social setting, try to avoid music that is so loud you need to shout.
4) Let Your Ears Recover
While you can do everything possible to avoid overly loud situations, chances are you will sometimes be exposed to noisy environments. For example, you may go out for dinner only to realize there is a live band playing.
In these cases, give yourself some time to rest afterward. If possible, take a break by stepping outside periodically for a little relief. The more prolonged the exposure, the more likely it is to cause hearing damage.
Research suggests that you require about 16 hours of quiet rest to recover from one evening of loud noises. Give yourself some time to relax and recover.
5) Keep Your Ears Dry
Infections are a common problem for hearing health. They are more likely to occur if you have wet ears that build up with bacteria. In fact, swimmer’s ear is a common term for otitis externa, a type of ear infection.
Make sure to dry your ears after they get wet, especially if they are submerged underwater. If you are swimming in a natural water body, the risks are even higher compared to chlorinated pools. Gently dry your outer ear with a towel after swimming. If you have water in your ear canal, tilt your head to the side and pull on your ear lobe. This will help to coax the water out.
As a preventative measure, consider getting some swimmer’s earplugs. These help to keep water out of the more sensitive parts of your ear.
6) Get a Check-Up
Like all other parts of your health, your hearing needs a periodic check-up by a doctor. Talk to your primary care physician about hearing screenings and exams. Hearing loss typically progresses gradually unless caused by severe trauma. So, catching it early can be essential to effective treatment.
Untreated hearing loss is linked to a number of health concerns. Of course, it causes a reduced quality of life due to difficulty hearing. However, it is also linked with depression, heart disease and even dementia.
Take care of your ears. You only have the one pair and when your hearing gets damaged, it is almost always gone for good. Preventative care and hygiene can help you stay ahead of hearing loss. The more proactive you are, the better for your long-term health.