Once your hearing is damaged, it often cannot be restored. The focus of this article is to increase mindfulness around the causes of hearing loss, and the ways in which one can protect their hearing by being aware of the hazards to hearing health. It is estimated that one third of permanent hearing loss is preventable with proper prevention strategies.
Noise is one of the most prevalent causes of hearing loss, and one of the most common occupational illnesses
in the United States. While hazardous noise exposures can occur on the job, they are also very common in recreational activities.
In the workplace, the risk of hearing loss is especially high among factory, heavy industry, transportation, and construction workers, as well as military, miners, farmers, firefighters, police officers, musicians, and entertainment industry workers.
Recreational sources of hazardous noise include firearms, firecrackers, power tools, music concerts, dance clubs, racing events, motorcycles, snowmobiles, powerboats, boom cars, and personal listening devices
Excessive noise exposure damages the delicate hair cells of the inner ear, often resulting in permanent, sensorineural hearing loss and tinnitus
. It is a common misperception that only noises loud enough to cause pain or earache are capable of causing damage.
1. If you work in a hazardous noise occupation, make sure your employer has an effective program to test and protect your hearing, in accordance with federal, state, and municipal regulations.
2. Use earplugs, customized ear protection
, or both, for rock concerts and other recreational events, and while using everyday equipment, such as lawnmowers, power tools, etc. From inexpensive foam earplugs, available at pharmacies, to specialized ear protection found at hearing clinics (such as those used by musicians), get protection and use it.
3. Turn down the volume. With personal listening devices, if you cannot hear external sounds, the volume is too high. It is recommended that you use noise cancelling headphones, which allow you to hear at a lower volume. A good rule of thumb is the 60/60 rule: listen to your device at 60% of the maximum volume for no longer than 60 minutes a day. While watching TV, if you have to shout to be heard, it is too high. Even a slight decrease in volume can help prevent damage over time.
4. Be careful in the car, or any confined space. Excess noise in confined spaces increases the risk of hearing damage.
5. Give your ears a rest. After exposure to loud noise, your ears need a nice long recovery period – 16 hours is recommended. Insufficient recovery time can increase the risk of permanent damage.
Certain medications and chemicals can damage your hearing. This is known as ototoxicity. Drugs thought to cause hearing loss include drugs for malaria (quinine and chloroquine), salicylates (like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen), certain classes of antibiotics, and some chemotherapy drugs. Some hearing loss from these drugs is thought to be temporary, but others can cause lasting damage.
1. Discuss your concerns about medications with your doctor.
2. Take medications only as directed.
3. Report any unusual symptoms, such as tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in the ear) immediately.
4. If working with hazardous chemicals, consult your employer’s health and safety officer to reduce your exposure.
Some viral illnesses like measles, mumps, rubella, and whooping cough, more commonly seen in children or unimmunized adults, can cause hearing hearing loss. Bacterial diseases such as meningitis and syphilis can also cause hearing damage. Additionally, 5 out of 6 children experience ear infections by the age of 3, which can damage hearing if left untreated.
1. Children should be vaccinated.
2. Seek medical attention promptly if you or your child becomes ill or shows signs of ear infection.
3. Protect yourself from STDs.
4. Seek help from a doctor or hearing professional for persistent tinnitus.
The middle and inner ears are protected by the temporal bones, at the base and sides of the skull. Head injuries that involve trauma to the temporal bones can cause hearing damage, as can concussion, even if the bones of the skull are not broken. Sudden and dramatic changes in air pressure can cause hearing damage as well, called otitic barotrauma. This is something seen in scuba diving, for example.
1. Wear a helmet while playing sports or bicycling.
2. Wear a seat belt while in the car.
3. Avoid falls.
4. Take all precautions while scuba diving.
• Avoid swimming in dirty water.
• Don’t use cotton swabs in your ears. Instead, clean the outer ear gently with a damp cloth.
• Dry your ears after bathing.
• Manage your stress levels.
• Get regular checkups.
• See a hearing specialist immediately if you have signs of hearing loss: ear pain, ringing or buzzing, a feeling of “fullness” in the ears, trouble distinguishing words.
If you believe you, or someone you love, is experiencing hearing loss
, contact us at Puget Sound Hearing today
! We provide comprehensive hearing exams and hearing aid fittings.