5 Ways to Prevent Hearing Loss And Protect Your Hearing
Hearing loss is, in most cases, preventable. 1 in 6 Australians are affected by hearing loss, and with an increasingly ageing population, this number is expected to increase to 1 in 4 by the year 2050. How do you make sure to not become part of these statistics? By knowing what causes damage to your hearing and learning how to preserve it.
If you want to be hearing your favourite tunes for many years more, you need to be proactive and start protecting your hearing. The most common causes of hearing loss are age-related, followed by excessive exposure to loud sounds.
Age-related hearing loss is difficult to avoid. One-third of Australians will have measurable hearing loss by the time they turn 65 years old. As you get older, the tiny hair cells in your inner ears will naturally, slowly break down and can’t transport sound vibrations as well as they used to.
Prolonged exposure to loud sounds, for example, at work or while you’re stuck in traffic, can irreversibly damage the hair cells in your ears. Even going for a walk can put you at risk. A passing-by truck clocks in at 100 decibels, enough to cause a temporary hearing problem. Just imagine you were a truck driver and exposed to this kind of noise every day. If you work or frequently spend time in a noisy place, you could be damaging your hearing without even realising it.
This information may paint a dark picture of the future, but there is good news. You can do a few things to keep age-related hearing loss at bay and avoid noise-induced hearing loss. We’ve chatted to a group of experienced, highly-skilled Audiologists and asked them for tried-and-true techniques and tips that will help you keep your ears sharp for many more years. Here is what we found!
5 simple things you can do to protect your hearing:
- Avoid loud noises
- Monitor the volume of your devices
- Protect your hearing during loud events and at work
- Keep your ears dry
- Get your hearing tested
How to protect your hearing
Approximately 60 per cent of childhood hearing loss is preventable. While genetic factors contribute to hearing loss cannot be controlled, you can protect your hearing by a variety of other means.
These include wearing hearing protection and seeking advice from qualified audiologists if you have any concerns about your hearing. If you experience sudden hearing loss, it’s important that you seek medical help immediately.
1. Avoid loud noises
The best method of prevention? Staying away from what causes the most damage. Since noise-induced hearing loss can permanently damage your hearing, it’s wise to stay away from loud noise whenever possible.
Noise may damage your hearing if:
- You have to raise your voice to speak to people that are less than 3 feet away
- You can’t hear what people that are less than 3 feet away are saying
- It hurts your ears
- Your ears are ringing
- Your hearing is muffled afterwards
If you’re unsure about how loud is too loud, there are a number of smartphone apps that measure noise levels. Decibel X and Too Noisy Pro, amongst others, are highly rated and recommended and available for both Android and iOS.
2. Monitor the volume of your devices
According to the World Health Organization, 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults worldwide are at risk to suffer from noise-induced hearing loss caused by the unsafe use of personal audio devices.
Using earbuds, we tend to increase the volume to make up for missing noise-cancelling functions and bad audio quality. Therefore, they’re generally more dangerous to our hearing compared to noise-cancelling headphones. But it’s not that easy. You also need to know how long, how loud and how often you are exposed to loud noise from any of your devices.
A few easy steps can help you preserve your hearing health:
- When listening to music with your headphones, use the 60:60 rule. Listen to your music at 60 per cent of the maximum volume for no more than 60 minutes a day.
- Turn down the dial of your TV or radio. Even a small reduction in volume can make a big difference to the risk of damage to your hearing.
- Give your ears time to recover. Make sure you’re giving your ears a break from constant noise exposure. For example, if you are attending a three-day music festival, make sure you’re taking small breaks to regularly reduce the overall time you are exposed to noise.
3. Protect your hearing during loud events and at work
Hearing loss is very common in both adults and children.
- Noise-induced hearing loss from excessive workplace noise is a major concern for those working in mining, with heavy machinery and in factories.
- Other means of exposure to loud sounds occur via recreational shooting, loud personal music players, concerts and clubs.
Noise is loud enough to damage your hearing if you have to raise your voice to talk to others, others’ voices sound muffled, you have ringing in your ears.
Your employer or Workplace Health and Safety Officer are obliged to make changes to reduce your exposure to loud noise by switching to quieter equipment if needed, making sure you are not exposed to loud noise for prolonged periods as well as providing adequate hearing protection based on the amount of noise you are exposed to.
Today there are no excuses for not wearing hearing protection when exposed to noise. You can buy hearing protection from almost anywhere. However, we recommend consulting with your Audiologist first.
Hearing protection has evolved over the years. The options are endless and include custom earplugs, earmuffs and semi-insert earplugs that will help prevent hearing loss.
- Earplugs: Custom-made by your Audiologist, earplugs are moulded to fit your ears perfectly. They offer great comfort and noise attenuation.
- Earmuffs: Offering less protection than earplugs, they only sit over your ears and not directly in the canal. The warm environments can be an issue, as moisture tends to build up inside the muffs. In combination with protective glasses, earmuffs may create a less than perfect seal from noise.
- Semi-insert earplugs: Disposable foam plugs are designed to be compressed and then inserted into the ear canal, where they expand and seal against noise.
4. Keep your ears dry
If you’re an avid swimmer or beach bum, you might unknowingly be putting your ears at risk. When water gets trapped in your ear canal, it turns into the perfect spot for bacteria to grow. Excess moisture allows bacteria to inhibit and spread infection inside the ear canal. As a result, your ears may feel itchy or even painful.
The only way to protect yourself is to do your best to keep your ears dry. When you are swimming or showering, make sure you also dry your ears with a towel or tilt your head to the side and tug on your earlobe to gently coax the water out.
5. Get your hearing tested
If you have noticed a reduction in your hearing or other people have been telling you that you’re missing parts of conversations, it’s important you schedule an appointment with your nearest audiologist for appropriate assessment and care. If you have lost parts of your hearing, you can take actions to prevent further hearing loss.
There are various signs which may tell you might have a hearing loss.
- Continually turning the TV or radio volume up to hear better
- Often finding yourself asking conversations to be repeated
- Withdrawing and isolating to avoid listening to others
- Positioning a certain way to hear better
- Not hearing the phone or doorbell ring
The impact of hearing loss
Hearing loss is usually a slow progressive process, thus it can be difficult for you to immediately notice when something has changed. In comparison to visual deficits, many people do not pay the same amount of attention to their hearing health. We usually only notice differences in our hearing when significant damage has occurred.
Hearing loss can lead to a variety of issues including the limited ability to communicate and participate in social situations and deficits in speech clarity.
Did you know?
- Hearing loss can decrease the dynamic range of sound. Essentially, it means that the threshold of what is audible and what is uncomfortably loud is decreased. Someone with hearing problems will, therefore, more often experience sudden noise as too loud, whilst soft speech or sounds are muffled.
- A person with hearing loss may experience decreased frequency resolution, meaning they might have difficulty separating sounds of different frequencies from one another.
- Hearing loss may also decrease temporal resolution, where loud sounds can mask weaker sounds. A person with hearing loss may, therefore, be unable to perceive weaker sounds, if they occur immediately after loud consonants. This can affect speech intelligibility, especially when competing with background noise.
These proactive steps can be the key to preserving your hearing health for the long-term.
If you have any further questions, please contact your local hearing clinic to chat with a qualified Audiologist. Together, you will be able to find the best solution to protect your hearing and prevent future hearing loss.