9 Tips to Prevent Hearing Loss & Preserve Your Hearing
Although hearing is one of the five human senses, it’s easy to take for granted. Hearing loss often goes undiagnosed or ignored due to more pressing health issues until it interferes with daily life.
But just as you exercise and eat a heart-healthy diet to protect your ticker, you should also take steps to preserve your hearing as you age. Hearing loss is associated with several chronic health conditions and cognitive decline. Hearing impairment affects people of all ages, but it is more common among older adults.
Thankfully, various resources help people with hearing loss, including hearing aids, captioning services, cochlear implants, and other adaptive technology. But nothing replaces being able to hear well. Many people take for granted being able to enjoy a concert, talk on the phone with friends, and communicate at school and work.
Reasons to protect your hearing
Not only does hearing loss impact quality of life, but it’s an important and expensive health issue.
- Hearing loss ranks third behind arthritis and heart disease as the most common chronic physical condition.
- One out of 5 men and one out of 8 women report they have at least some trouble hearing.
- The incidence of hearing loss is twice as common as diabetes or cancer
- An estimated 15 percent of adults (37.5 million) in the U.S. report hearing trouble
- Age is the biggest risk factor for hearing loss among adults, with the highest prevalence of hearing loss among people ages 60 to 69
- Men are almost twice as likely as women to have hearing loss among adults aged 20-69
- Hearing loss or tinnitus tops the list of service-related disabilities among U.S. veterans, with 2.7 million veterans receiving hearing care or disability status
Hearing loss has been linked to several health conditions and comorbidities, and quality of life issues, including:
- Cognitive impairment and dementia
- Mental illnesses including depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia
- Social isolation, social skills, and relationship issues
- Self-esteem and loneliness
- School and work performance
- Falls, balance issues, and home safety concerns among the elderly
- Diabetes and heart disease
- Breast cancer, osteoporosis, and autoimmune diseases in women
Tips to prevent hearing loss
There’s not much you can do about aging, but you can take steps now to protect your ears for the decades to come. Hearing loss due to loud noises and other lifestyle habits is preventable.
- Wear earplugs. These are essential if you are exposed to hazardous noise on the job, in the garage, or in hobbies such as motorsports. Even the lawnmower, snow blower, or too much loud music can damage the inner ear, causing hearing loss.
- Avoid loud noises when possible and especially for prolonged periods. This can include working around drills and other construction equipment, chainsaws, airplanes, military training drills, or even playing music.
Signs the noise is too loud:
- you have to raise your voice or yell
- you cannot hear what people nearby are saying
- it hurts your ears
- you have ringing in your ears afterward
- Take precautions and advocate for hearing safety at work. If you are concerned about noise levels or exposure, talk to human resources or the occupational health liaison. Employers must provide certain accommodations, supply hearing protection, and take steps to reduce your exposure to excessive noise.
- Mind your music. Don’t blast music at full volume through earphones and headphones.
- Use noise-canceling earphones or headphones.
- Don’t listen to music at more than 60% of maximum volume
- Do not use earphones for more than an hour at a time
- Take regular breaks – aim for at least a 5-minute break every hour
- Opt for over-the-ear headphones, as earbuds fit directly next to the eardrum
- Limit exposure at loud events and activities. Pay attention to the noise level at nightclubs, sporting events, concerts, and air shows.
- Don’t stand right next to speakers at concerts
- Try to take breaks or get away from the noise
- Take earplugs just in case
- Give your hearing a day to recover after attending a loud event
- For concerts, musicians’ earplugs reduce the volume of music but do not muffle the sound
- Evaluate lifestyle factors, hobbies, and previous accidents. Motorcycles, snowmobiles, and powerboats are fun, but they also have loud engines and pipes. Perhaps you enjoy live jam sessions with friends in the garage. It may be necessary to wear earplugs and take other precautions to prevent hearing damage. Activities such as swimming can cause recurring ear infections, or maybe you busted your eardrum when you were younger. It’s important to have ear issues – even earwax or fluid buildup – and infections treated.
- Practice good hearing health. Several lifestyle factors can improve or maintain your hearing.
- Limit your use of cotton swabs. A little bit of wax in your ears is normal and healthy. Plus, you risk damaging your ear canal and eardrum when you insert anything inside it.
- Take medications as directed and monitor side effects
- Watch the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), which can sometimes contribute to hearing loss.
- Keep your ears dry to avoid swimmer’s ear
- Exercise to maintain blood flow to your ears
- Wear a helmet to protect your head
- Manage your stress levels
- Pay attention to signs of hearing decline. Are you turning up the television volume, having trouble hearing over the phone, and asking people to repeat what they said? Don’t just ignore it or suffer in silence. Ear infections, popping or fluid in your ears, tinnitus or ringing in the ears, and balance issues can be other symptoms of hearing problems. Tinnitus is common in older adults and is often the first sign of hearing loss.
- Get your hearing checked regularly. Hearing is important for so many things related to the quality of life. If you are worried about your hearing health, talk to your doctor or find a good ENT specialist. As you age, you may want to get an annual hearing test and mention any concerns at PCP visits. Musicians, military members, veterans, or those who work with loud machines and equipment, should also have regular hearing tests.
Hearing loss can affect your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing, which is why it should be addressed at the first sign of decline. The earlier hearing loss is detected, the sooner it can be diagnosed and treated. Today’s hearing aid technology has come a long way, but it doesn’t replace hearing the sweet sound of songbirds or your favorite band in concert. So, do what you can now to protect your hearing later!
If you struggle with hearing loss, captioning services help people with hearing loss stay engaged and succeed at work and home. Visit Caption Pros to learn more about our award-winning captioners and services.