Not all conditions that affect hearing are preventable, but a little protection goes a long way to reducing your risk of losing your hearing. With over 15 percent of the adult population in the US reporting some degree of hearing loss, taking precautions just makes sense. Your hearing is a precious commodity and you should seriously consider making an investment to keep it safe. Consider these ways you can reduce your odds of becoming hearing impaired.
One of the biggest risks for hearing is exposure to loud noises. Take stock of the noise around you each day. The loudness of sound is measured in decibels, or dB. Regular conversation comes in at about 60 dB. Sounds that measure over 85 dB are harmful to the delicate mechanics of the ear, especially if you are exposed to them repeatedly. You should limit your exposure or wear ear protection when:
- Mowing the lawn – 90 dB
- Sitting next to a window air conditioner – 85 dB
- On the subway – 95 dB
- Riding an ATV – 100 dB
- Using a chainsaw or leaf blower – 115 dB
You can’t always measure the loudness of a sound, so pay attention to the warning signs that the noise level is too high.
- If you can’t talk comfortably or hear over the sound
- Your ears ring once it quiets down
- You have trouble hearing after exposure
- Your ears hurt or you naturally try to protect them
Monitor Prescription Drugs
Ototoxic drug refers to a medication that is toxic to the ears. When the doctor gives you a prescription, ask if it is safe for your ears or if hearing loss is a possible side effect. Avoid taking aspirin in high doses, as well. If, after taking a drug, your ears begin to ring, you feel pressure in the ear canal, or develop vertigo, call the doctor.
Tobacco smoke increases your risk of hearing loss when combined with other risk factors. Even exposure to secondhand smoke takes a toll on your ear health. If you smoke, it is never too early to stop and protect your ears from the toxic effect of tobacco.
Practice Proper Ear Hygiene
That old adage about not putting anything smaller than your elbow in your ear is good advice. Cotton swabs push wax deep into the canal and make hearing worse. Removing the wax means you eliminate the body’s natural ear protection, too. If you have excess wax, use an at-home irrigation kit to soften it or see your doctor to have it removed.
If your ears are itchy, it might be a sign of infection. If the itch is accompanied with drainage, pain or a bad smell, see your doctor for treatment. If itchy ears are common for you, the skin in the canal is probably just dry. One or two drops of mineral oil each day can help reduce the itch.
If you already suffer from some hearing loss, a hearing aid can help protect your ears from further damage.