7 THINGS YOU CAN DO RIGHT NOW TO PREVENT HEARING LOSS
Written by Asha Kalsi
In our day-to-day lives, many of us don't give much consideration to our hearing, especially when we’re blasting music through our headphones or soaking in the atmosphere of a live concert or club. Unfortunately, if we’re not careful, we can easily damage our delicate ears in the process. Seeing as hearing loss affects millions of people worldwide and is often preventable, it is crucial for us to be proactive in looking after our hearing if we want to keep enjoying these things. Luckily, there are plenty of things we can do right now to preserve our hearing, such as:
1. Avoiding Listening Too Loud for Too Long.
We all enjoy cranking up our music through headphones from time to time, but it's important to remember that it shouldn't be the norm. When listening at higher volumes, we need be mindful of both the loudness and duration of our exposure.
A safe guideline to follow is to keep your device's volume around 60% of its maximum level, striking a balance between enjoyable volume and minimising the impact on your long-term hearing.
To get a little bit technical, it's best to keep the volume comfortably below 85 decibels. This volume is comparable to a busy city, a washing machine, or a typical lawnmower and after consistent exposure to a volume of 85 decibels, it takes only 2 hours for your hearing to start to become damaged.
Personal audio devices can reach up to 105 decibels at full volume, but do we really need it that high at home? You can start to experience hearing loss in just 5 minutes at this level which is equivalent to if you were operating a chainsaw.
It's perfectly okay to enjoy loud music, but it's crucial to be mindful of how long you're listening and to keep your day-to-day volume at a comfortable level. Consider headphones with noise isolation and cancellation features to enjoy your music without needing to crank up the volume excessively.
2. Taking Regular Breaks.
Taking regular breaks is crucial, especially when listening to music at higher volumes. This is particularly important when using headphones, especially with in-ear models because they deliver sound directly into your ear canals. If you're a fan of live music, clubs, or sporting events, try to avoid being too close to the speakers, as exposure that direct can be very damaging. Even a 5-minute break can make a significant difference in allowing your ears to recover. After exposure to loud noise, it's recommended to spend at least 16 hours in a quiet environment to aid in the healing and recovery process of your ears. By being mindful of your listening habits and allowing for adequate breaks and recovery time, you can minimise any damage your ears may have experienced.
3. Wearing Ear Protection
If you frequently find yourself around power tools, lawnmowers, aircraft, ride a motorcycle or attend concerts, it's crucial to wear some form of ear protection. Whether it's as simple as the expandable foam earplugs often provided on flights or the earmuffs commonly worn by construction workers, any form of protection can make a significant difference. With the various options available, you can choose the ear protection that suits your lifestyle. If you're unsure about where to find suitable ear protection, consulting your GP is a good starting point. Jobs that involve exposure to loud noises should provide you with appropriate ear protection based on the noise levels of your work environment.
4. Keeping Your Ears Clean and Dry
Avoid using cotton swabs to clean your ears! Your ears are self-cleaning, and a small amount of wax is beneficial as it helps protect the inner ear. If you notice an increase in wax production or if the wax becomes uncomfortably thick however, it's advisable to visit your doctor for professional cleaning. Additionally, it's important to minimise water exposure in your ears whenever possible. Excess moisture can create a favourable environment for bacteria growth, increasing the risk of infections. If you feel water in your ears, tilt your head to the side to allow it to drain naturally, then gently dry the outer ear with a soft paper towel.
5. Treating problems ASAP
If you have any concerns about your hearing, it's crucial to seek professional advice promptly. Early detection allows us to prevent potential hearing issues and allows us to catch issues before more serious problems start to develop unnoticed. Take proactive steps to safeguard your hearing health by consulting a professional at the first sign of any concerns.
6. Exercising regularly.
Staying physically fit may not be commonly associated with hearing health, but it can have a significant impact. Regular exercise improves blood circulation throughout the body, including the ears. This means enhanced blood flow can promote better healing and recovery after mild or reversible hearing damage, ultimately contributing to healthier ears in the long run.
7. Testing your hearing regularly, especially if you work in noisy environments.
It's a good idea to have your hearing tested annually or as needed if you have any concerns about your hearing. Regular testing enables early detection of any emerging hearing issues, helping you address them proactively and prevent them from affecting your daily enjoyment of life. Stay proactive and prioritise regular hearing tests to stay ahead of any potential problems.
Our ears are irreplaceable, which is why we need to take the time to prioritise their well-being. By picking up healthy habits and taking preventive measures, we can ensure that our ears serve us well throughout our lives. Remember, we only get one set of ears, so we need to make the effort to protect them.