Ways to Combat Hearing Loss

Do you find yourself regularly turning the volume up on your music or TV? Are you asking others to repeat themselves more often? If this sounds familiar, you may be facing some degree of hearing loss.

Rest assured, youíre not alone. Approximately 10 percent of people in the United States report having difficulty hearing. And it affects all ages. The majority of people with hearing loss (65 percent) are under 65 years old.

The good news is that hearing loss is largely preventable. Even if youíre experiencing some hearing loss already, there is a lot you can do to control further damage and keep your hearing at its best.

How Does Hearing Work?

Ear diagram

Many different structures inside your ear function cooperatively to give you the ability to hear. When a sound enters your outer ear canal, it first comes in contact with your tympanic membrane, or eardrum. The vibrations on your eardrum are transferred along three short bones in your middle ear to an organ called the cochlea in your inner ear.

Your cochlea is filled with a specialized fluid that converts the sound wave into an electrical impulse that gets sent along your nerves to your brain for processing. If anything gets disrupted along this finely tuned system, hearing loss can result.

What Causes Hearing Loss?

Inner Ear Damage

This is the most common cause of hearing loss. Over time, aging and exposure to loud noise can damage the delicate structures in your ears. Higher pitched tones may become harder to hear, and it can be difficult to pick out words against a noisy background. This sort of damage is permanent.

Earwax Buildup

Excess earwax can physically block your ear canal and prevent sound from reaching your inner ear. You can easily remove earwax and restore this kind of hearing loss.

Ear Infections

The Eustachian tube allows fluid to drain out of your middle ear in order to maintain a proper internal pressure. When the tube becomes blocked for any reason, fluid can back up in your ear and become infected. This fluid buildup can also block some of your hearing. Depending on the severity, this type of hearing loss can be temporary or permanent.

Ruptured Eardrum

Many situations can cause one or both of your eardrums to rupture or tear, such as loud blasts of noise, sudden pressure changes, poking your eardrum with an object, and infection. Usually any hearing loss is temporary and will clear up after the tear has healed, which takes a few weeks.

Medications

About 200 drugs can cause ear damage, such as certain antibiotics and chemotherapy drugs. You can also experience temporary hearing loss if you take very high doses of some drugs, like aspirin and other pain relievers.

Illness

Diseases or illnesses that involve a high fever, such as meningitis, may damage the inner ear. Certain other conditions like brain tumors, Meniereís disease, or multiple sclerosis can also affect hearing.

Ways to Combat Hearing Loss

Avoid Loud Noise

This may sound simple, but noise can assault you from a variety of sources. Pay attention to how you react to noise throughout the day. Do you cringe when you turn on a blender? Does traffic noise bother you? Trust your instincts. If a noise seems uncomfortably loud, itís likely getting into the danger zone for your hearing.

Try to minimize your exposure to any sources of noise pollution, such as:

  • Appliances (e.g. washing machines, blenders, vacuum cleaners)
  • Personal care equipment (e.g. hair dryers, electric toothbrushes)
  • Exercise equipment
  • Yard maintenance equipment (e.g. lawn mowers, leaf blowers)
  • Headphones
  • Street traffic
  • Barking dogs
  • Low-flying airplanes

Related: 5 Everyday Noises That Can Ruin Your Hearing

Wear Hearing Protection

If you canít avoid loud noise for a particular reason, always protect your ears. Earmuffs and earplugs are the most common types of hearing protection. Theyíre designed to bring noise down to acceptable levels, not cut out noise completely.

Earmuffs and earplugs come in many different styles and strengths. Visit your local pharmacy, hardware store or home care supply store to discuss what types they have available.

Plan Your Outings Carefully

Many recreational activities involve a lot of noise. Snowmobiles, motorcycles, concerts, night clubs and even movie theaters can all bombard you with potentially damaging levels of noise. If youíre planning an evening or a day out that you know will involve loud noise, make sure to bring some hearing protection.

Itís also helpful to keep your exposure to the noise as short as possible and take regular breaks away from the noise. Also try to keep your distance from the noise source. For example, getting the cheap seats at the back of a concert stadium can be a great thing for your ears.

Quit Smoking

Research shows that smokers are up to 70 percent more likely to develop hearing loss than non-smokers. Secondhand smoke is also dangerous. Non-smokers who live with smokers are still twice as likely to develop hearing loss compared to people who are not exposed to secondhand smoke.

If youíre a smoker, do yourself and your loved ones a favor. Find treatment and quit the habit for good.

Remove Earwax

Earwax is naturally self-cleaning. Itís only produced on the outside edge of the external ear canal and will usually fall out by itself. But, if youíre concerned you might have too much building up and itís affecting your hearing, visit your doctor right away. They can check your ears and remove any earwax if needed.

Whatever you do, donít use cotton swabs to clean your ears. Read why here.

Check Your Medications

This is another area to discuss with your doctor. Ask them if any of your current medications have hearing loss associated with them. If they do, perhaps you can look at alternatives.

Have Your Hearing Checked

Early detection of hearing loss can alert you to any potential problems and prevent further damage. If you have concerns about your hearing, ask your doctor for a hearing test. And if you work or live in an especially noisy environment, try to get your hearing checked annually.

Consider Hearing Assistance

Has your hearing loss started to impact your life? If you find yourself avoiding social contact or withdrawing from activities you enjoy because of your hearing loss, it might be a good time to investigate options for hearing assistance.

Youíre not limited to old-fashioned hearing aids anymore. There is a wide variety of assistive devices and alternative communication options available. Check out the National Institutes of Healthís webpage on different types of hearing assistive devices for more details.

Related at Care2

 

95 comments

Sheri P
Sheri P1 months ago

thanks! i think it's time to have my hearing checked again...

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Stephanie s
Stephanie s2 months ago

Thank you

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Stephanie s
Stephanie s2 months ago

Thank you

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Lesa D
Lesa D3 months ago

what???
just kidding!!!

thank you Zoe...

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 months ago

Thank you

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 months ago

Thank you

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Jerome S
Jerome S3 months ago

thanks

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Jerome S
Jerome S3 months ago

thanks

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Mike R
Mike R3 months ago

Thanks

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Jessica C
Jessica C3 months ago

thanks

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