Hearing Loss Prevention

How to protect your hearing and prevent hearing loss

Hearing enhances our life in so many ways. Sounds connect us to other people, enrich our experiences, and enhance the activities we enjoy. By properly caring for your ears, you'll prevent hearing loss and keep the connection to all the things you love.

Most common causes of hearing loss

Hearing loss can happen to anyone who’s exposed to loud noises, regardless of age. Consider this: Adolescents and Baby Boomers are the two population segments that are most prone to hearing loss caused by prolonged, chronic exposure to loud noise. This is called noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), and it’s permanent.

Listening to loud noises for too long damages the tiny nerve cells in your inner ear that are responsible for hearing. Ongoing exposure to sounds above 85 decibels (dB) can cause permanent hearing loss over time. but even a one-time event - like a gunshot or an explosion at close range - can do lasting damage.

To learn more about hearing protection, our helpful decibel chart can help you understand when sound sxposure can become dangerous. 

Learn how to prevent hearing loss in children Learn more

How to protect your hearing

Explore this list of simple, effective tips to protect your hearing and prevent hearing loss.

Many forms of entertainment that we love—as well as work situations that can’t be avoided—have the potential to harm your hearing. Wearing hearing protection is a good idea if you are in a loud commercial, industrial, or recreational environment. Concerts and even some movies warrant wearing ear protection, and you should always protect yourself whenever you’re firing guns or near people who are, whether you're hunting or at the range.  

Some hearing concerns may be treatable if detected early. Visit any one of our Miracle-Ear locations for a free screening.

Ear wax is important natural ear protection. But when the body produces too much, it can build up, become impacted and prevent sound from entering the ear. Ear blockage from 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.

The good news is that this type of hearing loss is usually temporary. If the impacted ear wax is removed in a timely manner, hearing can normally be restored. 

Your doctor can determine if the wax 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 ditch the cotton swabs—they can push wax deeper into your ear and create buildup near the eardrum. Similarily, avoid ear candling, an alternative medical therapy meaent to remove ear wax that has neither been 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.

This effect is due to our Eustachian tubes, passageways on either side of the head that connect the upper part of the throat to the middle ear. As air pressure rapidly builds and drops during flight, our ears feel blocked and it becomes difficult to hear. When our ears “pop,” it’s a sign that the Eustachian tubes are doing their job of equalizing air pressure in the middle ear.

However, flying while congested can 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 to avoid air travel if you have a sinus infection or cold (to not only spare your ears, but your fellow passengers, as well), but if you must fly, take a nasal decongestant.

These medications help reduce swelling and open the passageways of the Eustachian tubes.  

You can also use EarPlanes®, pressure-regulating ear plugs designed to reduce discomfort during air travel.

Oral 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, good hearing health depends on good blood circulation.

If you have harmful bacteria in your mouth due to tooth decay or gum disease, the bacteria can enter your bloodstream and disrupt circulation. Without adequate blood flow, the hair cells in the inner ear are prone to damage known as sensorineural hearing loss.

Chronic stress saps energy and weakens the immune system, leaving us more prone to all kinds of health issues.

Stress can affect hearing in a variety of ways. The body’s response to high stress levels triggers an overproduction of adrenaline that can reduce blood flow to the inner ear—or disrupt it completely—and result in sensorineural hearing loss.

Evidence also reveals that tinnitus may increase when we’re under stress, and significant long-term stress often leads to the development of hypertension (high blood pressure), which is another condition linked to hearing loss and tinnitus.

While stress can result in hearing damage and tinnitus, living with these conditions may also increase stress. Finding ways to cope with stress, whether through therapy or other practices, is important to your overall health, including your hearing.

Diet has been found to play a crucial role in both our health and how well we hear. While there’s no hard rule for which types of foods you should eat for hearing loss prevention, practicing good dietary habits may go a long way in helping you hear better over time. 

As for what you drink, be aware that alcohol and hearing loss are also linked. A study from the University of Ulm in Germany* found that heavy drinking over a long period of time can cause damage to the central auditory cortex, which is where sound is processed in the brain. Alcohol can also damage the tiny hairs of the inner ear—stereocilia—that play an important role in processing sound, picking up auditory information transferring it to your brain for processing. Once damage has been done, the effects can’t be reversed, so limiting your alcohol consumption can help protect your hearing.

Did you know the chemicals found in cigarettes may affect the way your ears process sound? It's true! In fact, smokers have been found to be 15% more likely to have hearing loss than non-smokers.

While using pain relievers on occasion is fine, frequently using aspirin or ibuprofen can lead to temporary or permanent hearing loss. These types of medication are classified as ototoxic, which means that over time they literally poison your ears. 
Three tips for healthy hearing
3 Tips for healthy hearing

Small changes can have a big effect on your hearing health. Take action and implement these three simple tips to protect your hearing. Watch now.

Can hearing loss be reversed? Learn more

Hearing protection for professionals

Many people are at higher risk of hearing loss due to their job. People in the following professions are commonly exposed to loud noise and should protect their ears to prevent occupational hearing loss.

Did you know the noise from a power drill typically registers at 90 dB? A jackhammer is even louder, at a whopping 130 dB. Since any noise over 85 dB, (typically the volume of a lawn mower) can cause hearing damage, construction workers are frequently at risk. Many construction workers have the benefit of working outside, which can help alleviate the impact of noisy machinery. However, wearing ear plugs or ear muffs is a must on the construction site.

One of the most common complaints of factory workers is excessive noise. In addition to the loud machinery they work with all day, large fans often run throughout the day. While it’s common for workers to wear ear plugs or ear muffs as personal protection while working in a factory, adding silencers to equipment or creating around particularly loud machinery can help reduce noise for everyone on the job.

We often overlook the most common military service-related injury: hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Although the military has been implementing hearing conservation programs for decades, more than 60% of veterans return home with some degree of hearing loss. Permanent hearing damage is often a direct result of sudden, loud explosions, the roar of airplane or ship engines, or even gunfire (110+ dB). At Miracle-Ear, we’re committed to serving veterans by improving their access to quality hearing healthcare.

Airport workers are often exposed to equipment and machinery such as engines, generators and compressors. The sound of a jet plane taking off reaches over 140 dB, so it’s easy to understand why hearing protection is important on the tarmac. Just as in many other professions, custom ear plugs or ear muffs are a must.

Hearing protection is recommended for musicians and others who work in music production and live shows. The sound of drums can easily reach over 100 dB, which means you can only listen for a few minutes without protection before risking damage to your ears and hearing. In addition to ear plugs, noise cancelling headphones can ensure that you can listen to music at safe levels.
Family out for a walk outside together

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*https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15084909/

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