Your hearing is there when you first wake up in the morning to the sound of the alarm clock. It’s there when you hear the sound of a car approaching as you cross the street. Often, you’ll hear the rain outside before you even see it.
Unfortunately, these everyday moments don’t come naturally to those with hearing difficulties. While there are many different causes of hearing loss, one of the most prevalent is chronic loud noise. This is the second-largest cause of hearing loss after age-related damage. It’s also completely preventable.
Below are five tips to keep in mind to protect your hearing for many years to come.
1. Avoid Loud Noises
First thing’s first, the best way to protect your hearing is to avoid unnecessary loud noises. Just as you would avoid sitting too close to a TV screen to protect your eyesight or prevent sunburn by using suncream, this works in the same way. Noise levels are measured in decibels (dB), so the higher the decibels, the louder the noise and, potentially, the more damage the sound causes to your ears.
If your workplace requires you to work close to loud noises, such as on a construction site or in a concert hall, you’re regularly being exposed to high decibels over an extended time. There are an estimated 23, 000 workers across the UK with work-related hearing problems. To take care of your hearing, it is vital to wear hearing protection such as earplugs and earmuffs. These need to provide enough protection to ensure that sounds are below 85dB once they reach the ear.
Even if your workplace doesn’t expose you to loud noises, it’s important to keep this advice in mind when you’re socialising. Nightclubs, loud restaurants and concerts are all culprits, so try to stay away from the speakers and take regular breaks away from the noise.
2. Turn Down the Volume
Protecting your hearing from loud noises also means taking care when listening to music through earphones and headphones. Many of us are guilty of turning up the volume full blast to enjoy our favourite songs or block out outside noise, but this is one of the biggest dangers to your hearing. Instead, use noise-cancelling headphones, which reduce unwanted surrounding sounds using active noise control.
3. Give Your Ears Time to Recover
After your ears have been exposed to loud noise, it is essential to give them time to recover. If you spend two hours exposed to 100dB sound, you need at least 18 hours of ear rest. By taking this recovery time step after periods of noise, you’ll decrease the risk of permanent hearing damage.
4. Get Your Ear Wax Removed
Although earwax generally leaves the ear naturally, it can sometimes build up and cause hearing loss if left untreated. If your earwax has built up or become impacted in the ear canal, don’t try to remove it yourself, as this can cause further damage. Instead, seek a professional earwax removal treatment as soon as possible.
5. Stop Using Cotton Buds
One big piece of advice is to stop using cotton buds to clean your ears, as they push earwax further into the ear. Earwax is your body’s natural defence mechanism to keep the ear canal lubricated, clean and healthy, so don’t stick anything in your ears! The rule of thumb is you shouldn’t put anything smaller than an elbow in your ear.
Once your hearing is damaged, it can’t be repaired — only improved — so it’s important to be able to recognise the warning signs that you are being exposed to too much noise. If you notice there is ringing or buzzing in your ears, it’s time to put in earplugs or leave the situation. Good hearing is a key part of healthy ageing, so it’s well-worth putting precautions in place now.
Ian Waring is the owner of Hearing Expert in Wirral, an independent hearing clinic which offers earwax removal, as well as hearing tests and hearing aids.