There are a variety of things that can damage your ears and hearing, from leisure activities to occupational hazards. In cases of potentially harmful exposure to sound, your ears can provide warning signs such as muffled hearing for a few hours after exposure to extremely loud sounds, ringing sounds in the ear, or pain in some severe cases. Maintaining good aural hygiene and taking precautionary measures can go a long way in preventing early hearing loss.
1. Aural hygiene – correct aural hygiene is essential to prevent damage to the ear, as well as skin irritations and infections. Ear infections are easily triggered by repeated entry of water, or entry of unclean water into the ear. Ear infections are especially common among children, and delays in seeking treatment can lead to hearing losses. Usage of cotton buds are more harmful than beneficial. They often push the earwax further into the ear canal, closer to the ear drum, which can in turn increase the risk of infections.
2. Listening to music – Listening to loud music through headphones/earphones for a long period of time poses a huge danger to your hearing. Noise cancellation headphones can reduce outside noise which prevents increasing volume to mask the background noise. While using earphones, give your ears at least a 5-minute break every hour. This allows your inner ear hair cells to recover from the continuous exposure and prevents trauma.
3. Protect your ear during loud events – Close exposure to extremely loud sounds and music causes damage to the cochlear hair cells and leads to hearing loss. To protect your hearing during such events, move away from the source of the loud noise and try to take a break every 15-20 minutes. If you are going to be around loud noises for a few hours, consider using ear protective devices like earplugs or earmuffs, and give your hearing about 12-15 hours to recover before re-exposure.
4. Precautions at work – noise levels at work should usually not exceed 85dB. If you are exposed to louder noises as part of your work, like operating loud tools and machinery, either ask your employer to make changes to reduce your exposure, and make sure to use ear protective devices.
5. Monitor your hearing – Consider having regular health checks to monitor your hearing, especially if you are risk for developing a hearing loss. And if you are worried that you might already have a hearing loss, get your hearing tested as soon as possible for early identification and management.
Noise Induced Hearing Loss has a slow onset, but continues to progress faster with constant exposure, and sometimes may increase even after exposure to noise has stopped. It is important to note that the slow damage to your ears and hearing are irreversible. With more people at risk for noise induced hearing loss, it is important that we educate ourselves as well as the people we know about these risks, and how to preserve our hearing.