Hearing Loss Prevention

Protect your hearing and prevent hearing loss

Our hearing is a precious commodity. Sounds connect us to other people, memories, and activities we enjoy. Hearing enhances our life and learning experiences. To enjoy all the sounds of your life, properly caring for your ears is the best way to prevent hearing loss and protect all that your hearing does for you.

Common causes of hearing loss

Hearing loss can happen to anyone who’s exposed to loud noises if the negative conditions are right. For the adolescent and baby boomer segments of the population, the most common cause of hearing loss is prolonged, chronic exposure to loud noises. This is called noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), and it’s permanent.

If you listen to a loud noise for too long, it begins to damage the tiny nerve cells in your inner ear that are responsible for hearing. Ongoing exposure to sounds above 85 dB can cause permanent hearing loss over time. Even a one-time event such as a gunshot or explosion at close proximity can do lasting damage.

The rule of thumb for unprotected ears is that the allowed exposure time decreases by one-half for each 5 dB increase in the sound. For instance, you can listen to a 90 dB sound for eight hours per day, a 95 dB sound for four hours per day and a 100 dB sound for two hours per day. Learn more about hearing loss prevention with this helpful decibel chart

Tips on how to protect your hearing

Take a look at these simple yet effective tips to protect your hearing and prevent hearing loss.

Avoid harmful noise

Musical concerts and movies offer wonderful experiences, but can hurt your hearing. Consider wearing hearing protection if you are in a loud commercial, industrial, or recreational environment. Protect yourself whenever you’re firing guns or near people who are. Avoid loud rock concerts—or at least wear earplugs if you do attend.

Get your hearing checked regularly

Some hearing problems can be treated if they’re caught early. Don’t hesitate to ask your doctor for a hearing test if you are feeling uncertain about your ability to hear. Or, visit any one of our Miracle-Ear locations for a free screening.

Control ear wax

Ear wax is important—it keeps our ears protected and moisturized. 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? This type of hearing loss is usually temporary; if the impacted ear wax is removed in a timely manner, hearing can normally be restored. However, ear wax left untreated for too long may lead to more permanent hearing loss.

Think your ear wax is out of control? 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—these tend to push wax deeper into your ear and create buildup near the eardrum. Try this healthier alternative: add a few drops of hydrogen peroxide to a damp cotton ball and apply it to the affected ear. Tilt your head so that the affected ear faces up (this allows the fluid to drip into your ear canal). Wait a few minutes, then tilt your head down so that the fluid and wax can drain out of your ear. Consult your doctor before attempting this or any other method for clearing wax buildup.

Some hearing problems can be treated if they’re caught early. Don’t hesitate to ask your doctor for a hearing test if you are feeling uncertain about your ability to hear. Or, visit any one of our Miracle-Ear locations for a free screening.

Stuffy nose? Avoid air travel

If you’ve ever traveled by plane, you’ve probably experienced a “popping” sensation in your ears during takeoff and landing. This phenomenon is commonly known as “airplane ear.”

This effect occurs thanks to our Eustachian tubes, passageways on each side of the head that connect the upper part of the throat to the middle ear. They help drain fluid and equalize air pressure between the nose and 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.

Typically, chewing gum, swallowing and yawning help to open the Eustachian tubes and restore normal hearing. 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. When this occurs, your ears won’t pop after landing, and you may experience difficulty hearing for several days. 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, there are a few steps you can take to protect your hearing and minimize discomfort.

Take a nasal decongestant. These medications help reduce swelling and open the passageway of the Eustachian tube. It’s a good idea to take the decongestant 2 to 3 hours before your anticipated flight arrival time so they are most effective during the landing period, when pressure tends to be the most severe. 

Keep candy handy. In mild cases, sucking and swallowing sweets may help to open the Eustachian tubes. 

Try EarPlanes®. These pressure-regulating ear plugs are designed to reduce discomfort during air travel.

Maintain a healthy mouth

Our oral health can affect other areas of our body—including our ears. Evidence shows that warding off cavities may be an important tool in hearing loss prevention. Though a direct link between oral health and hearing health has not yet been established, good hearing health depends on good blood circulation—and that’s where poor oral hygiene can get in the way.

Nerve cells in the inner ear rely on the proper circulation of blood and nutrients to be able to translate noise collected by the outer ear into sound signals for the brain. If you have harmful bacteria in your mouth as a result of tooth decay or gum disease, the bacteria can enter your bloodstream and cause the blood vessels to narrow and swell, disrupting circulation. Without adequate blood flow, the hair cells become damaged and, eventually, destroyed. This type of damage is known as sensorineural hearing loss.

To protect your pearly whites, the American Dental Association recommends brushing your teeth for two minutes, two times per day, and flossing at least once per day. You should also visit your dentist regularly to prevent and treat any oral diseases. 

Reduce stress

Stress in small doses has its advantages, but excessive stress can be crippling to your mental and physical health. Chronic stress saps energy and weakens the immune system, leaving us more prone to all kinds of health issues—ranging from headaches and frequent colds to long-term illnesses such as heart disease.

But how does stress affect hearing? Similar to oral hygiene, it all traces back to blood circulation. 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. A 2015 study of the relationship between stress and tinnitus found that almost 54 percent of those with tinnitus developed the condition during a stressful period in their lives—and nearly 53 percent said that their tinnitus increased during stressful periods.

Significant long-term stress often leads to the development of hypertension (high blood pressure), which is another condition linked to hearing loss and tinnitus. Hypertension has been shown to accelerate age-related hearing loss and is a common cause of pulsatile tinnitus, an affliction characterized by a pulsing noise in the ear.

While too much stress can result in hearing damage and tinnitus, living with these conditions may also augment the stress in your life. It’s important to find healthy ways to cope with emotional stress, whether that involves exercising regularly, spending more time in nature or seeking the support of a therapist.

Watch your diet

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

Nix the nicotine

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

Minimize pain reliever use

While using pain relievers on occasion is fine, frequently using aspirin or ibuprofen can actually 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 impact on the health of your ears. Take action and implement these simple tips to protect your hearing. Watch now.

Hearing protection for professionals

Many people are at higher risk of hearing loss due to their job or career. Take a look at some common professions that are exposed to loud noise and what you can do to protect your hearing in the workplace.

Construction workers

Did you know that the noise from a power drill typically registers at 90 dB? A jackhammer is even louder, coming in at a whopping 130 dB. Since it’s important to protect your hearing from any noise over 85 dB, construction workers are constantly at risk of damaging their hearing. 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.

Factory workers

One of the most common complaints of factory workers is excessive noise. In addition to the loud machinery they work with all day, there is also commonly large fans running throughout the day. While it’s common for workers to wear ear plugs or ear muffs while working in a factory, there are also things that can be done to reduce the noise at its source, including adding a silencer to equipment or creating an enclosure around particularly loud machinery.


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 percent 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

Airport workers are often exposed to equipment and machinery such as engines, generators and compressors. With the sound of a jet plane taking off reaching over 140 dB, you can imagine why protecting your hearing while on the tarmac would be important. Just like many other professions, ear plugs or ear muffs are a must.


Hearing protection is recommended for musicians or other professions associated with 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 your risk damage to your ears and hearing. In addition to ear plugs, noise cancelling headphones can ensure that you can listen to your music at safe levels.

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