Credited to: By Wyatt Myers | Medically reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH
While many causes of hearing loss are noise-induced, others can be quite surprising. Because their effects are cumulative, protect your ears by minimizing your exposure to all of them.
There are many health problems in life that you just can’t prevent, but hearing loss is one condition over which you do have some control.
Sheri Billing, AuD, doctor of audiology and president of The Hearing Doctors in Wheaton, Ill., says you can change whether or not you let noise damage your ears.
You can do this by identifying the causes of hearing loss, such as noise-induced hearing loss or tinnitus (a persistent sound or ringing in your ears), and then finding ways to eliminate these causes, whether it’s through hearing protection or simply avoidance of the noise.
“Think of noise exposure like a bucket. It continues to fill through one’s life,” says Billing. “Making changes now will have a positive impact later in life. Noise exposure is accumulative. It rarely has an instant effect on one’s hearing, but rather a gradual one.”
Strategies to Minimize Hearing Loss
There are several steps you can take to minimize your exposure to noise and maintain good health for your ears.
Strategy No. 1: Be careful around machinery. Billing says that basic yard and home machinery is a common cause of noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus, and you can avoid this by simply wearing hearing protection when using lawn mowers, snow blowers, leaf blowers, shop vacuums, chain saws, power tools, air guns, and real guns. Foam ear plugs are helpful, but it’s worth investing a few dollars in a noise-canceling headset for the greatest protection.
Strategy No. 2: Protect your ears at loud concerts and sporting events. Billing says that the same strategy should also be followed when it comes to the noise-induced hearing loss or tinnitus that can come from concerts and certain sporting events, particularly car races. She also adds that one noisy venue where hearing protection is often overlooked is inside an airplane.
Strategy No. 3: Follow the iPod rules. “When it comes to iPods, a good rule to live by is the 60/60 rule,” says Billing. That means you should never use an iPod for more than 60 minutes a day at 60 percent of the volume. “Also, never wear your iPod while operating heavy equipment like a lawn mower. The lawn mower is already at 90 decibels, and then placing ear buds in and turning on music makes it so that you have to turn the music up even louder to hear over the lawn mower,” Billing says.
Strategy No. 4: Set the iPod for your kids. As far as your kids’ iPod usage goes, Billing has a simple trick for regulating this as well. “You can set the internal volume of the iPod by going to Apple’s website and setting the max volume for your children,” she says. “This is a great way to make sure they never turn it up too loudly.” Apple offers a software update on its site for newer iPod models which locks in the volume and protects the setting with a pass code.
Strategy No. 5: Look for signs of infection. Infection is another common cause of hearing loss, especially among children. Be vigilant in looking for the warning signs of an ear infection, so that you can see your doctor for treatment immediately. Signs parent can look for include a child who is not responsive, sets the TV louder than normal, is pulling on the ear, has a red ear, or is talking very loudly, says Billing.
Strategy No. 6: Be careful with aspirin intake. Some medications are ototoxic, which means that they can cause damage to the ear and become a cause of hearing loss. The most common of these is high doses of aspirin. Monitor how much aspirin you take, particularly if you have a history of hearing or ear problems. If you’re worried, discuss this issue with your doctor.
Strategy No. 7: Talk to your doctor about your medications. Hundreds of other drugs, including antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and chemotherapy drugs, are also ototoxic. “Always talk to your doctor about all medications you are taking and how important they are to your overall health,” says Billing. “Sometimes the side effects are worse than the help they may provide.”
Strategy No. 8: Don’t put anything in your ears. The advice is the simplest and is especially important for young children. Let them know that sticking any foreign objects, such as crayons, into their ears can result in injury or infection. Even adults need to take extra precaution in this area when it comes to the use of cotton ear swabs.