For most people some degree of hearing loss is an inevitable consequence of growing older. However, the good news is you can easily take action to protect yourself from preventable causes of hearing loss. In order to ensure you don’t permanently lose hearing unnecessarily, you can follow these easy steps.
Protect yourself from loud noises
Signs that a noise is dangerously loud include the following:
- You can’t hear what other people are saying over the noise.
- You have to raise your voice in order for other people to hear you.
- The noise causes pain in your ears.
- Your hearing feels muffled or you have a ringing sound in your ears after exposure to the noise.
What is a loud noise?
Sound is measured in decibels (dB). Any noise measuring over 85 dB can cause harm, particularly if you’re exposed to it over a long period of time. Apps are available to calculate the noise levels around you, but using the above signs is a reliable way to judge whether a noise level may be dangerously high. To give you an idea of noise levels, the following sounds have these approximate decibel levels:
- Normal conversation – 60dB
- Busy traffic – 70-85dB
- Listening to music through headphones at full volume – 100-110dB
- Plane taking off – 120dB
As you can see, many of the everyday noises we are exposed to can come close or exceed safe sound levels. Avoiding loud noise is the best way to prevent noise-induced hearing loss but of course this isn’t always possible.
Protection from loud noise
If you’re attending a gig, sports event or going to a nightclub you can prevent damage to your ears by:
- Taking a short break from the noise every 15 minutes
- Staying away from loudspeakers and other sources of the noise
- Avoiding loud noise for at least 18 hours after the event
- Wearing ear plugs at the event – if you attend a lot of gigs it may be worth investing in reusable musicians’ earplugs that reduce volume without muffling sound
Listening to music with headphones
When listening to music with headphones, take these precautions to protect your ears:
- Never listen to music at full volume. About 60% of the maximum volume should be ample for you to hear the music properly without damaging your ears.
- Don’t use earphones or headphones for more than an hour at a time. After an hour make sure you take a break of at least 5 minutes.
- Consider noise-cancelling headphones; the option to reduce outside noise means you can listen to music at a lower volume.
- If you regularly listen to music while running, customised sleeves for your ear buds provide a bespoke fit, meaning background noise is eliminated and the volume can be reduced.
Removal of wax from the ears
Never try to remove ear wax with a cotton bud. Not only can this perforate the eardrum, causing bleeding and temporary hearing loss, but the damage it can cause to the tiny, intricate bones deep inside the ear can also cause permanent deafness. If you feel like wax has built up inside your ears, one of the specialist audiologists at the Hearing Centre can carry out safe and effective microsuction earwax removal.
Everyday ear care
Swimmer’s ear (otitis externa) is a common outer ear infection caused when bacteria or fungi enter the ear through water. Swimmer’s ear is usually a mild and treatable infection, however, when it recurs or becomes serious, it can cause temporary hearing loss. In order to prevent swimmer’s ear, make sure you carefully dry the delicate skin inside your ears after exposure to any water.
Specialist advice from an audiologist
If you feel like you are experiencing hearing loss, it’s important to make an appointment for a hearing test as soon as possible as the sooner you act, the better chance you have of rectifying the problem. Also, if you work in a noisy environment or regularly attend loud public events, it may be worth considering regular hearing checks. To book an appointment with an audiologist at the Hearing Centre in Leicester please call 0116 254 3909 or email [email protected].