Maintaining ear health is a lifelong process. Taking steps to protect your hearing can help you enjoy music and conversation without strain, and having healthy ears might even enable you to have better balance and a reduced risk of accidents and falls in your senior years. To help your ears stay as healthy as possible, use our guide to the top 10 ways to take care of your ears for ideas that you can easily incorporate into your daily life.
1. Use Ear Protection: Ear protection is vital for individuals who work in certain occupations. Musicians, construction workers, and others who work in noisy environments are at a higher risk for early hearing loss due to their jobs. If you work in a noisy environment, ask your employer about the types of hearing protection aids that may be available to you. Earplugs and over-the-ear style muffs are some of the most popular choices to reduce noise levels, and audiologists can make customized noise-reduction devices for each patient’s needs. Musicians should wear earplugs at every rehearsal and concert. Individuals who attend concerts or festivals in large auditoriums and stadiums should also consider wearing ear protection. Wearing ear protection while on airplane flights is beneficial, too. Note: when choosing ear protection for loud environments, avoid foam earplugs; these do not normally provide sufficient noise reduction.
2. Reduce the Volume: Hearing loss is increasing among young people, and researchers believe this may be due to a large amount of time many younger individuals spend listening to music with earbuds. For optimal ear health, doctors recommend people who are using earbuds only wear these for a maximum of one hour a day, and the music should be played at a volume of 60 percent. Individuals who want to listen to music for longer than 60 minutes a day should do so at a volume of no more than 30 percent. In general, headphones may be a safer option for overall ear health.
Also, if earbuds are not properly cleaned, they could lead to ear infections. People using headphones should not listen to music at a level higher than 105dB; levels higher than this could cause hearing damage if they are used for as little as 15 minutes a week.
3. Keep Your Distance: Exposure to even a short period of intense noise could result in a temporary reduction in the sensitivity of your hearing, sometimes by as much as 30dB. If you have to be in a noisy environment such as a concert, try to place as much distance as possible between your body and the source of the loudest noise. For example, consider sitting on a balcony or an area far from the stage at concerts so that you won’t be close to the speakers. Individuals who live near or walk past construction sites regularly might want to try taking an alternate route to their destination to reduce some of their noise exposure. Crossing the street or closing windows facing the street could help.
4. Let Your Ears Rest: Research suggests that it can take the ears up to 16 days to recover from a single day spent in a high-noise area. To protect yourself, try to take regular breaks from noisy environments. If you work around noise daily, aim to spend your breaks in a quiet space, and try to take at least 10 minutes of quiet time for each hour of work. Taking this time out will help your ears recover more quickly, and it can reduce your risk of hearing loss. If escaping to a quiet zone isn’t possible, consider wearing noise-canceling headphones during your breaks to mimic a quiet area. Wearing noise-canceling headphones in office environments is an ideal way to give your ears a long-term break, too.
5. Leave Earwax Removal to the Professionals: Earwax helps to protect the ears from pollutants, irritants, and even insects. Some patients believe that removing earwax is an important part of personal hygiene. However, the ears are naturally self-cleaning, and earwax does not normally need to be manually removed. Attempting to remove it could cause it to be pushed deep into the ear canal, and this might lead to an impaction. Impacted earwax should be removed by an ear health professional who is trained in this procedure. Patients who are experiencing ear pain or muffled hearing might have impacted earwax, and it is important to see an audiologist for an evaluation.
6. Handle Your Ears With Care: Many patients routinely use cotton buds to clean the ear canals, and some individuals may use bobby pins or other sharp objects for this purpose. Inserting objects into the ear can be very dangerous; it may increase the risk of ear infections, and patients could even damage their eardrums or hearing abilities by doing this. Patients sometimes attempt to use cotton buds or other objects on the ears to resolve the itchiness, soreness, or other ear symptoms. In cases of mild itching, gently wiping the pinna (the outside portion of the ear) with a soft cloth is acceptable. However, the insertion of objects into the ear canal should only be carried out by an ear care specialist or physician. Individuals who are experiencing redness, soreness, or persistent itching in the ears should be examined by a professional; these symptoms may indicate infections or other ear conditions that need treatment.
7. Try to Quit Smoking: Some studies have shown that smokers face a 60 percent increase in their risk of hearing loss as compared to non-smokers. The nicotine and carbon monoxide in cigarettes can cause cellular damage to the areas of the ear that convert vibrations into electrical signals for the brain, and nicotine reduces blood flow and oxygen availability in the inner ear. Exposure to second-hand smoke is considered a risk factor for early hearing loss, too. If you are struggling to quit smoking, talk with your primary care doctor about resources and medications that could help.
8. Keep Moving: Research shows that there is a correlation between cardiovascular health and the health of your ears. Just as doctors recommend getting physical activity to keep your heart healthy, ear health specialists recognize the importance of exercise in maintaining the health of your ears. Aim to get 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise at least five days a week. Brisk walking, ballroom dancing, running, and swimming are all good choices, and some patients like to perform yoga, too.
9. Investigate Potential Warning Signs Promptly: Any persistent redness, pain, swelling, or itching in the ears could indicate an ear health issue. Hearing loss, muffled hearing, or discharge from the ears could also be early signals of problems that may need treatment. If you experience any of these signs, getting a prompt evaluation by a hearing specialist could help you feel better, and it might save your hearing in the long term, too.
10. Have Regular Hearing Checkups: While many people go to the doctor for an annual physical examination, few individuals have hearing tests regularly. These simple, quick exams could identify potential ear health issues early. Early detection could enable you to have more treatment options, and early treatments are often simpler and cheaper than the more advanced ones that are needed at later stages. The specialists at Eldorado Audiology & Hearing Center can assist you with all of your ear health and hearing care needs. Whether you just need a routine hearing test or are looking for advice about an ear concern, the compassionate professionals at Eldorado will take care of you and provide you with all the tools you need to maintain the health of your ears for a lifetime.
We hope that our guide to 10 ways to take care of your ears has been useful to you. Always remember that there are more than just 10 ways to take care of your ears, and you may need to follow different advice based on your overall health or your particular ear health concerns. Be sure to consult your doctor and audiology team for personalized advice.