Hearing is an invaluable sense that can all too often be taken for granted. Having healthy ears allows us to connect with the world around us and enhance our everyday experiences. Unfortunately, hearing loss is a condition that affects millions of people worldwide and has a detrimental impact on the day-to-day lives of those suffering.
The good news is that many cases of hearing loss can be prevented by taking simple, proactive measures. As a team of professional audiologists, it’s our job to not only help those struggling with hearing loss but also to spread awareness and helpful information on how you can try to prevent it in the first place.
We’ve seen the negative impact that hearing loss has on our patients, so in this blog post we will explore our top tips on how to protect your ears and the importance of incorporating protective measures to safeguard your hearing in order to enjoy a lifetime of healthy auditory function.
1. Know the risks to your hearing
Understanding the risks associated with hearing loss is the first step towards prevention. Whilst many cases of hearing loss are due to the effects of ageing, the second leading cause is overexposure to noise.
Over time, exposing the ears to excessively loud noise can result in wear and tear on the hairs or nerve cells in the ear which send sound signals to the brain. This overexposure is often caused by using headphones at high volumes, working in noisy environments or regularly attending concerts.
Thankfully, these can usually be avoided or controlled for the most part, so recognising these risks allows you to make informed decisions about protecting your ears.
2. Use ear protection
Whenever you anticipate exposure to loud sounds, it’s crucial to wear appropriate ear protection. Earplugs and earmuffs are effective tools for reducing the intensity of noise and preventing damage.
Earplugs are compact and convenient, making them ideal for situations like concerts or loud workplaces. Earmuffs, on the other hand, provide a larger barrier against noise and are often used in industrial settings. They have the power to reduce noise by about 15 to 30 decibels if worn correctly and are therefore crucial for those who work in particularly noisy environments day in, and day out.
Invest in high-quality ear protection devices and keep them readily available to ensure you can protect your ears whenever necessary.
3. Be aware of volume levels
Protecting your hearing all starts with being more mindful about how you consume sounds and adjusting your behaviours accordingly. Listening to music or other audio content at high volumes, either through headphones or speakers, can be detrimental to your hearing. If this is something you’re doing for hours a day on a daily basis, the impact on your ears could be irreversible.
A practical solution to this is implementing the 60/60 rule: limit your listening time to 60 minutes at a maximum volume of 60% of the device’s maximum output. Many smartphones now have in-built headphone safety features which can automatically reduce loud sounds and alert you when you have been frequently listening at a higher volume than recommended for prolonged periods. We’d recommend enabling these features and taking action when any warning notifications display on your device.
Consider also investing in a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones that allow you to enjoy your favourite music and videos without the need for high volumes since you won’t need to drown out any background noise. Make it a habit to regularly assess and adjust volume levels to protect your ears from unnecessary strain.
4. Give your ears a break from noise
If you find yourself exposed to loud noises for extended periods of time, making a conscious effort to take regular breaks and give your ears a rest where possible can make a world of difference.
Whether you work in a loud, industrial environment or are often engaged in particularly noisy activities or frequently attending concerts, stepping away from the noise allows your ears time to recover and reduces the risk of cumulative damage.
Try to schedule short walks outside or find a quiet place to take a break every now and then. If the rules in your workplace are a concern, we’d recommend raising this with your manager to request regular break times and explain how these rest periods are crucial for your overall health.
5. Take medications cautiously
One of the lesser-known causes of hearing loss can be taking certain medications such as antibiotics, diuretics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
These medications have been linked to hearing loss, with frequent usage and high dosages over a long period of time both shown to increase the risk. Of course, these medications are necessary for pain relief in certain situations but if you are prescribed any of the above and are concerned about potential risks, consider talking to your healthcare provider about alternative options to protect your ears.
Besides prescriptive doses, it’s also important to monitor your self-prescribed use of either of these medications. For example, if you plan to reach for an ibuprofen to ease an ache or pain, consider how you may be able to take an alternative route such as applying an ice pack or heat to the affected area to reduce the symptoms.
6. Get regular hearing tests
It goes without saying that regular hearing tests are essential to monitoring your ear health, regardless of whether you follow the above protective procedures or not.
Hearing loss can happen gradually over time and more often than not, many people don’t realise their hearing has begun to deteriorate until it’s too late. Hearing loss is irreversible, and the early detection of any potential hearing problems is crucial.
Untreated hearing loss can worsen over time, so it’s essential that a treatment such as a hearing aid is prescribed as soon as possible. By visiting an audiologist regularly, you can identify any signs of hearing loss or damage and take necessary action promptly.
Sutton & Solihull Hearing Centres have over 70 years of experience caring for the hearing needs of patients across the West Midlands. We have clinics in both Sutton Coldfield and Solihull, with a team of expert audiologists offering professional and in-depth hearing tests.
If you think you’re struggling with your hearing or are simply interested in getting your ears checked, we can help. We can also offer personalised advice on how to protect your ears based on your specific needs and lifestyle. Find out more about our hearing assessments or get in touch with us to book an appointment.