Take Care of Your Ears and Enjoy Better Hearing for Life
By Contributing Author, Kate Harveston
Do you ask your soft-spoken friend to repeat themselves — more than once? Do your family members complain about how loudly you blare the television? If so, you may have hearing loss.
People can damage or injure their ears in many ways. Water or other objects can injure your eardrum or cause infection. Excessive exposure to noise can leave you partially deaf. Taking better care of your ears leads to an improved quality of life overall.
1. Get Tested
How do you know if you have hearing loss? Get yourself tested. You can find free and paid hearing tests online, although they vary in terms of accuracy.
Approximately one out of every three adults over the age of 65 suffers from some degree of hearing loss. Half of those older than 75 do, as well. Medicare may cover a professional hearing test with a referral from your doctor.
2. Take Out the Headphones
Headphones come in handy for drowning out the sounds of screeching babies on airplanes. However, listening to music or video apps at loud volumes can damage your hearing. Headphones amplify sounds up to 120 decibels, equivalent to the noise level at a rock concert. Today’s teens run a higher risk of hearing loss than previous generations due to the use of these devices.
3. Turn Down the TV
If your family members or next-door neighbors complain about your television volume, it’s a sign something is amiss.
You might think this represents an inconvenience, but overly loud noises can damage the hearing of those around you, too. Turn the volume down, if only by one notch, when you’re watching alone. When you’re with others, let them dictate the sound level. Turn on the captions if you struggle to catch the words.
4. Identify Hidden Noise Sources
Everyday noises in urban areas consist of automotive sounds, airplanes, and trains. If you’ve lived in the city all your life, you may not even realize the decibel levels you face daily. Take action to drown out these hidden noises. Hang blackout curtains or upgrade your window insulation to reduce outside sound. Consider wearing a set of earplugs on high-traffic days.
5. Wear Earplugs Around Machinery
Do you work in a factory? If so, you know OSHA requires your employer to provide no-cost ear protection if you work at levels higher than 85 decibels for an 8-hour shift. You should also wear protective coverings if you rent devices like stump removers or backhoes.
6. Don a Cap While Swimming
Swimmer’s ear refers to an infection you can contract when you expose your ears to water. This condition causes pain and muffled hearing, and you may experience fluid leaking from your ear canal.
To protect your ears while practicing your breaststroke, don a swim cap with ear pockets that creates a watertight seal. If possible, select a model with a chin strap to keep it in place. As a bonus, this cap will protect your tresses from the drying effect of chlorine.
7. Dry Your Ears When Wet
Your ears can get wet when you wash your hair in the shower. If you take baths and slide under the water, you submerge your hearing organs, too. Even getting caught in a torrential downpour can leave you feeling soggy.
Dry your ears out with a bit of tissue or a clean cloth. Exercise caution to wipe only around the exterior of your ear. Avoid sticking your finger inside the canal.
8. Pass on the Cotton Swabs
Between 1990 and 2010, more than 260,000 children arrived at the emergency room due to injuries caused by cotton swabs. More precisely, they hurt themselves by sticking these devices too far inside the canal.
The best course of action? Keep these swabs out of your home, or place them in medicine cabinets your children can’t reach. If you must use them, instruct children to wipe only around the exterior of their ear. Tell them to never insert the swab — or any other object — inside the canal. Be a good role model — if your children see you digging for gold, they’ll imitate your actions.
9. Use Assistive Devices When Necessary
Under the current rules, Medicare does not cover hearing aids. This lapse is unfortunate because older adults who struggle to hear have higher risks of developing dementia and loneliness. In one study of 4,463 participants, more than 16% with hearing loss developed dementia, compared to 12.1% of those without it.
You can find low-cost assistive devices.
While these aren’t as effective as a professionally fitted pair of hearing aids, they can nevertheless make your life more comfortable. Some such devices sold on TV infomercials are bulky and uncomfortable.
A search of online retailers can reveal more discreet aids at low prices.
Your hearing is a precious gift. Protect your ears so that you can enjoy listening to the sounds you love for life!