Friends, countrymen, lend us your ears: hearing loss is music to nobody’s ears. Your hearing is a precious, finite resource. Take good care of it now and that decision will pay off dividends for years to come. For our latest Wellness story we’re looking at why it’s so important to listen to the experts and hear them out about proper ear health.
Get A Hearing Test
When it comes to taking care of your hearing one of the best things you can do for yourself long-term is to get a baseline hearing test. It’s something you should consider getting as part of your next physical if you haven’t in the past. A baseline hearing test determines your current level of hearing. It provides an audiologist a baseline to compare future test results. It’s the easiest way for them to monitor the progression of a hearing loss. It also lets physicians see if you’ve already experienced any signs of mild hearing loss.
If you're going to be in a noisy environment you should consider wearing protective earplugs or earphones. Earplugs are relatively cheap and easy to come by; you can get a decent supply at any drugstore for less than $10. While concerts and club performances may be some of the first places that come to mind when you're thinking about earplugs, there are other environments where they can come in handy:
- Construction sites
- Hunting or shooting
- Noisy workplaces
- Airports, trains, and bus stations
- Lawn mowing or leaf blowing
- Auto racing
- Sports events
If you're regularly exposed to noise (perhaps you're a musician or you work as a welder), you may want to look into custom ear plugs. While these tend to be pricey, they have distinct advantages over standard plugs. For starters, the custom plugs are molded to more comfortably fit inside your ear. They can also be designed to block out specific frequencies, something that regular ear plugs can’t do.
Protection For Your Ears
Wearing plugs or other kinds of ear protection does more than just protect your hearing: they can protect you from ear infections. This is especially true when it comes to swimming: if you swim on a regular basis, wearing plugs will help keep chlorinated water and other debris from getting trapped in your ears.
To Swab Or Not To Swab
Another thing you can do to improve your ear health is to limit your use of cotton swabs or eliminate them entirely. While we tend to associate swabs with ear-cleaning, it’s generally recommended that you NOT use them for this purpose. Using them improperly could cause injuries and damage your ear. It can also be bad because swabs remove earwax from your ears. While it’s good to get some of that wax out on occasion when it hits the outer portion of the ear, earwax does serve an important function. Earwax keeps your ears from getting too dry; it traps dirt; and it prevents bacteria from reaching deeper inside your ear.
While swabbing can feel good, it’s important to remember that your ears are actually good at self-cleaning. You don’t need to get in there as often as you think you do.
Pump Down The Volume
Screens and portable devices make up a large portion of our lives. They can also be some of the worst offenders when it comes to damaging hearing. Turn down the volume on your TV, computer, and phone. When using earbuds or headphones, adjust the volume to a lower level. While it can be a lot of fun listening to loud music, prolonged listening at higher decibels can really wear out your hearing over time.
Never forget that, unlike most other forms of health, you can’t get your hearing back. You can get aids, you can get implants, but at the end of the day hearing that’s lost is hearing that cannot be regained.
If you experience these symptoms, you might be experiencing tinnitus and should get a hearing test as soon as possible:
- A noise in the ears: ringing, roaring, buzzing, clicking, hissing, or whistling. It can be located in one ear or affect both of them.
- The noise may be continuous or intermittent.
- The noise is subjective: only you can hear it.
In some cases the noise might manifest as a rhythmic sound that pulses in time with your heartbeat. This is called pulsatile tinnitus.