Find out how you can protect your hearing.
Anyone who's exposed to loud noise can experience hearing loss, regardless of their age. Adolescents and Baby Boomers are the two population segments most prone to noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), which is permanent hearing loss caused by prolonged, chronic exposure to loud noise.
Ongoing exposure to sounds above 85 decibels (dB) can damage the tiny nerve cells in your inner ear responsible for hearing, causing permanent hearing loss. However, even a one-time occurrence like a gunshot or an explosion at close range can do lasting damage.
A decibel chart can help you understand when sound exposure can become dangerous.
To learn how you can prevent hearing loss, get to know this list of simple, effective tips.
Ear wax is an important form of ear protection, naturally produced by the body. Even so, excessive amounts of ear wax can cause buildup, preventing sound from entering the ear. Blockage caused by ear wax is actually one of the most common causes of conductive hearing loss, or hearing loss that occurs when sound is blocked from reaching the inner ear.
Fortunately, this type of hearing loss tends to be temporary. If the ear wax is removed in a timely manner, hearing can normally be restored. Your doctor or hearing care professional can determine if the wax production in your ears is normal and perform a simple procedure to clear up any blockage.
You can also treat ear wax buildup at home, but don't use cotton swabs—they can push wax deeper into your ear and create buildup near the eardrum. You should also avoid ear candling, an alternative medical therapy meant to remove ear wax. It has yet to be proven safe or effective. Consult your doctor or a licensed hearing care professional before attempting this or any other method for clearing wax buildup.
If you’ve ever traveled by plane, you’ve probably experienced a “popping” sensation in your ears during takeoff and landing, known as "airplane ear".
When air pressure rapidly builds and drops during flight, our ears feel blocked and it becomes difficult to hear. The Eustachian tubes—passageways on either side of the head connecting the upper part of the throat to the middle ear— equalize air pressure in the middle ear and cause that "pop" in your ears. To avoid the pain associated with this reaction, try using pressure-regulating earplugs during air travel.
Flying while congested can also create complications that lead to temporary or, in some cases, permanent hearing loss.
Congestion causes swelling to the tissues lining the Eustachian tubes and makes it impossible to equalize air pressure, leading to severe ear pain. In more serious cases, the pressure may cause your eardrum to burst.
It’s best practice to avoid air travel if you have a sinus infection or cold, but if you must fly, take a nasal decongestant.
These medications help reduce swelling and open the passageways of the Eustachian tubes.
Your mouth's health can affect other areas of our body, including the ears. Though a direct link between oral health and hearing health has not yet been established, your quality of hearing depends on good blood circulation.
Harmful bacteria from tooth decay or gum disease can enter your bloodstream and disrupt circulation. And without adequate blood flow, the hair cells in the inner ear are prone to damage, resulting in sensorineural hearing loss.
Chronic stress saps energy and weakens the immune system, leaving us more prone to all kinds of health issues, including hearing loss.
The body’s response to high stress levels triggers an overproduction of adrenaline that can reduce or even completely disrupt blood flow to the inner ear and result in sensorineural hearing loss.
Evidence also reveals that the likelihood and intensity of tinnitus may increase when we’re under stress, and significant long-term stress often leads to the development of high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, which is another condition linked to hearing loss and tinnitus.
While stress can result in hearing damage and tinnitus, living with these conditions can also increase that stress. Finding ways to cope with stress, whether through therapy or other practices, is important to your hearing and overall health.
Diet plays a crucial role in many aspects of our health, including how well we hear. While there’s no guarantee that certain types of foods will prevent hearing loss, practicing good dietary habits can go a long way in supporting or gradually improving your ear health.
Be aware that alcohol and hearing loss are also linked. A study from the University of Ulm in Germany* found that long-term heavy drinking can cause damage to the central auditory cortex, where the brain processes sound. Alcohol can also damage the tiny hairs of the inner ear that play an important role in processing sound, picking up auditory information and transferring it to your brain for processing. That kind of damage is irreversible, so limiting your alcohol consumption is the best way to protect your hearing.
Small changes can have a big effect on your hearing health. Hear how you can take action with three simple hearing loss prevention tips that will help protect your hearing.
Many people unknowingly have a higher risk of hearing loss because of their job. Certain professions tend to involve loud noise and workers in these fields should protect their ears to prevent occupational hearing loss. Here's how the following professions can experience and combat potential hearing damage.
For more hearing loss prevention tips, treatment options and helpful hearing health information, check out our free hearing guide.
While all of these tips can work toward preventing hearing loss, you have to keep monitoring your ears for permanent damage. Early detection is key to preventing some forms of hearing loss. Get your hearing checked regularly—every three years as an adult, or annually if you're over 60 years old. Visit any one of our Miracle-Ear locations for a free screening,