Start making these changes now to protect your ears and keep them healthy through the years!
As we age, our bodies also begin to change and our five senses also begin to lose their sharpness. Our vision, taste, touch, smell, and hearing can all be affected as we get older due to reduced blood flow to the nerve endings which can change or reduce our sensitivity.
One sense that is commonly known to weaken with time is our sense of hearing. Over time, our sense of hearing tends to deteriorate as we gradually become less sensitive to sound, making it more difficult for us to distinguish between different frequencies and volumes.
There are a number of different factors that can contribute to the deterioration of our sense of hearing, ranging from prolonged exposure to loud noises to our genetics.
The good news is that there are several habits you can integrate into your daily routine to promote good ear health and preserve your auditory ability over time. In this article, we will look into five habits that you can begin incorporating into your life to help keep your ears healthy over time.
1. Protect your ears from loud noise.
One of the primary ways people damage their hearing is through excessive exposure to noise, leading to noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). According to statistics, around 40 million adults in the US aged between 20 to 69 years have NIHL.
Loud noise can cause irreversible damage to the structures and nerve fibers in the ear that respond to sound. So it is important to protect your ears when you are exposed to loud noise.
For example, when attending loud events such as music concerts or festivals, maintain your distance from the speakers. Also take breaks to a quieter area if possible.
When carrying out maintenance work or construction, wear earplugs or earmuffs to protect your ears.
2. Maintain good ear hygiene.
Keeping your ears clean is another important habit for keeping your ears healthy. While earwax plays an important role in lubricating and protecting the ear canal from dust, dirt, and debris, too much of it can cause the ears to become blocked or impacted, causing a number of issues.
Excessive buildup of earwax, or ‘cerumen impaction’, can create a breeding ground for fungi and bacteria to grow inside the ear. This can lead to ear infections and other risks to ear health. In severe cases, when left untreated, ear infections can damage the eardrum or even result in permanent hearing loss.
Some signs of an earwax blockage include the following:
- Pain or discomfort
- A feeling of fullness in the ear
- A ringing noise in the ear (tinnitus)
- Hearing loss
- Itchiness in the ear
- Odor or discharge in the ear
To clean your ears, make sure to use a soft washcloth and warm water to soften the earwax and wipe the area. This is better than using a cotton swab which can push the earwax further into the ear canal and cause blockages.
3. Avoid excessive use of earbuds or headphones.
Using earbuds or headphones excessively can also damage your hearing. So, take regular breaks and limit the volume when using them.
Guidance from the World Health Organization recommends that you listen to music at no more than 60% of the maximum volume for no longer than one hour a day. This will help protect your ears and reduce the risk of noise-related hearing loss.
Listening to music at high volumes for a prolonged period can cause damage to delicate hairs inside the cochlea of the ear. These hairs are responsible for transforming sound vibrations into electrical signals that the brain can interpret as sound. Once damaged, they can no longer perform this function. They may even die, causing noise-induced hearing loss.
Other ear-related problems that can arise from the excessive use of earbuds or headphones include tinnitus, earwax buildup, as well as physical discomfort in the ears.
Living with hearing loss can be challenging, as it affects your ability to communicate and interact with the world around you. While medical advancements have brought forth effective solutions like hearing aids and cochlear implants, prevention still remains the best measure.
Noise-induced hearing loss is largely preventable, and being aware of the dangers of prolonged exposure to loud music is the first step in protecting your hearing health. We must therefore consider the long-term consequences, including the potential of living with hearing loss, before indulging in such habits that put our hearing at risk.
4. Get regular check-ups from an audiologist.
Getting regular check-ups from an audiologist can help in the early detection of any hearing problems. This will also allow you to receive treatment in time.
If you notice any changes in your hearing, such as ringing in your ears, difficulty understanding speech, or a feeling of fullness in your ears, it’s important to schedule an appointment with a specialist like HearCanada to learn about hearing aid services that can help improve your hearing and quality of life.
Your audiologist can also provide you with tailored treatment options that can cater to your individual hearing needs and lifestyle. These include hearing aids, assistive listening devices, or other suitable interventions.
If you are already wearing a hearing aid, it is important to maintain your device. Keep it clean using a tissue or soft cloth and have it checked once a year by your audiologist.
5. Stay healthy.
Your overall health has an impact on your hearing and there are various health conditions that can impact your ability to hear. For example, cardiovascular disease can restrict blood flow and circulation to the inner ear, starving the hair cells responsible for hearing of the oxygen and nutrients they need to function properly.
People with diabetes have a higher chance of experiencing hearing impairment. This is because high blood sugar levels can damage nerves and small blood vessels in the inner ear over time.
In addition, certain ototoxic medications can cause permanent damage to the inner parts of the ear causing hearing and balance problems. Many antibiotics and chemotherapy drugs are known to be ototoxic. If you are taking ototoxic medication, inform your doctor of any hearing-related issues you may be experiencing.
By taking care of your overall health through regular exercise, a balanced diet, and the avoidance of harmful substances, you can help to reduce the risk of developing health conditions that can adversely impact your hearing.
Keep your ears healthy!
By adopting the five habits outlined, you can reduce the risk of developing hearing loss, tinnitus, and other hearing-related issues that can affect your quality of life.
Indeed, it is possible keep your ears healthy as you age. But you must start making changes today.