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Home >> Protecting Your Ears  

 Protecting Your Ears

Although most of us suffer from hearing loss due to aging, you can keep your hearing sharp well into your golden years if you protect your ears from noise now. Imagine your hearing is a big barrel of sand. Either you can empty it out gradually with a teaspoon, so it will last a long time, or you can use a shovel and run out of it, a lot sooner. Here are a few suggestions to prevent hearing loss.

  • Turn it down: You probably cannot do much about traffic noise, jackhammers and many other sources of excessive sound. But you can turn down the volume on your stereo. Some sound systems can produce noise equal to the loudest rock concerts. As a general rule, you should not be able to hear your stereo from outside your home when your door is closed. If you can, it is too loud. The same rule applies to your car radio. If you use headphones or a personal stereo, someone standing next to you should not be able to hear the sound.
  • If you have to shout, get out: If you have to raise your voice to be heard by someone standing a foot or two away from you, that is a clear warning that the noise level may be dangerous and you should get away from it as soon as possible or wear ear protection.
  • Keep plugs handy: Stuffing cotton or pieces of crumpled tissue into your ears does virtually nothing to minimize damage to your hearing. Instead, get in the habit of carrying earplugs with you. Most earplugs are small and will fit in your pocket, and in that way you will be prepared for unexpected noise. The foam rubber types are good because they are inexpensive and available over-the-counter at most drugstores and they can be quickly rolled up and placed in your ears. Look for the noise reduction rating on the side of the box. This will tell you how many decibels of sound the earplugs will muffle. Buy plugs that have a rating of at least 15; they will reduce the noise by 15 decibels and slash the chances that your hearing will be damaged. If you want better protection, an audiologist can design a pair of custom-made plugs that reduce noise by about 35 decibels.
  • Take time-outs: The longer you expose yourself to loud sounds without a break, the more likely you are to cause permanent damage to your hearing, even if you are wearing earplugs. So give your ears 5 to 10 minute break from noise every 30 minutes. If you give your ears an occasional break, they can rest and recover from the excessive work that loud noises makes them do.
  • Spread out the noise: Placing several loud appliances or power tools near each other will compound your noise problem. So if your TV set is in the same room as your
    dishwasher, for example, you might be tempted to turn up the TV volume excessively when you do a load of dishes. Instead, move the television to a quieter room.
  • Swab the deck, not your ears: Attempting to clean wax out of your ears with a cotton swab, matchstick or anything else smaller than that, does more harm than good. Earwax is actually good for you. It repels water and helps keep dust away from your sensitive eardrum. Sticking small objects in your ear pushes the wax further into your ear and can cause infection. The best thing to do about earwax inside the ear canal is to leave it alone. If it becomes bothersome, see your physician or get an over-the-counter earwax removal kit that contains drops that will soften the wax and allow it to flow naturally out of your ear.
  • Muzzle your medication: Taking six to eight aspirins a day can cause ringing in your ears and temporary hearing loss. Antibiotics such as gentamicin, streptomycin and tobramycin can also damage your hearing. If you are taking any drug and develop hearing problems, consult your doctor.
  • Stop smoking: Smoking reduces blood flow to the ears and may interfere with the natural healing of small blood vessels that occurs after exposure to loud noise. So if you do smoke, quit as soon as possible.
  • Slash the caffeine: Like nicotine, caffeine cuts the blood flow to the ears, increasing the chances of hearing loss. Drink no more than two eight-ounce cups of coffee or tea a day. If possible, drink decaffeinated brews.
  • Balance your diet: The same fatty and cholesterol-laden foods that are bad for your heart also endanger your ears. Both high blood pressure and fatty deposits in your arteries can reduce blood flow to your ears and gradually strangle your hearing. So eat a balanced diet daily that includes at least five servings of fruits and vegetables, six servings of breads and grains and no more than one three- ounce serving (about the size of your wallet) of lean red meat, poultry or fish.
  • Exercise: Walk, run, swim or do any other aerobic exercise for 20 minutes a day, three times a week. It will stimulate blood circulation, lower your blood pressure and help keep your ears in peak condition.


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