Hearing loss is an increasingly common problem worldwide, though most hearing loss causes are preventable. In fact, according to the CDC, about 40 million American adults between 20 and 69 years old have noise exposure-induced hearing loss in one or both ears. Unfortunately, 100% of these hearing loss cases are preventable.
Most hearing loss isn’t life-threatening, so it’s often overlooked as a critical health issue. However, those with hearing loss understand that not only is it uncomfortable, but it also makes social engagements awkward, reduces work opportunities, and decreases overall quality of life.
However, the good news is that prevention is relatively easy. Here are some of our top tips for hearing loss prevention to maximize your hearing health.
Wear Appropriate Hearing Protection
While it may seem like a simple answer, wearing hearing protection is the number one way to reduce hearing damage.
However, while most people use hearing protection for very loud activities like shooting ranges and rock concerts, it’s typically extended exposure to softer activities that put people at greater risk. For example, a high school football game is loud, but you may not think that it’s necessary to wear earplugs to attend. Unfortunately, these kinds of activities are still dangerous to hearing.
Listening to any noise over 80-85 decibels for an extended period of time is potentially dangerous.
Also, not all earplugs are equally effective. For example, some earplugs only reduce sounds by 10 decibels while others reduce sound by 20 decibels. So if you go to a shooting range with earplugs that reduce sound by 10 decibels, you’ll still experience hearing damage. While it’s better than nothing, it’s not optimal.
Avoid Removing Earwax
If you use cotton swabs (“q-tips”) to remove earwax, you’re putting yourself at risk. Cotton swabs often push earwax deeper into the ear and cause impactions, infections, and ultimately lead to hearing loss.
In addition, earwax is designed to prevent debris and other damage from entering the middle and inner ear, so it actually shouldn’t be removed unless it’s excessive.
However, if you have excessive earwax, you can either go to the doctor or try softening it by adding a few drops of baby oil or mineral oil (assuming that you don’t have a tube or hole in your eardrum).
Another essential habit you should adopt to prevent hearing loss is to reduce the volume of your headphones. Unfortunately, 94 decibels is the average sound level of most personal listening devices, which is about 10 to 15 decibels over the maximum you can listen to without experiencing hearing loss.
Therefore, consider a volume limit app to control the volume you use on your phone and other devices.
You Can Prevent Hearing Loss
While some people are more likely to experience hearing loss, it’s often caused by environmental factors. While you may not feel the full effects of hearing damage until you’re older, listening to loud noises can cause permanent hearing damage today, and you will eventually feel the effects of it.
If you’re concerned about your hearing health, don’t hesitate to reach out to an audiologist for more information.
About the Author
Pauline Dinnauer is the VP of Audiological Care at Connect Hearing, which provides industry-leading hearing loss, hearing testing, and hearing aid consultation across the US.