How to take care of your ears and hearing?
Sometimes we take our hearing for granted but as the recent Oscar nominated film, The Sound of Metal, showed us, our hearing can be an important part of our lives. We protect all parts of our body from using sunscreen to wearing sunglasses, but we rarely utilize ways to protect our ears. The ears are the most visible part and the entry point of the human hearing system. Taking care of your ears is important to maintaining healthy hearing and good health. From cleaning your ears to prevent bacteria from entering your ears to taking steps to avoid unnecessary noise that could lead to hearing loss, here are ten tips for caring for your ears.
- Use hearing protection at concerts
If you go to concerts, nightclubs, or motor sporting events regularly make sure you are protecting your ears from loud music or sounds by using earplugs or standing farther back from the stage or the source of the sound. Sometimes it can take up to 16 hours to recover from one excessively loud night out. A regular 5 minute break during the concert might help your ears recover a bit but wearing earplugs or earmuffs will offer the most protection.
Don’t have your headphones or earphones on at a high volume
Not being able to hear external sounds when your music is on, or if the person next to you can hear it too, means it’s too loud. Being able to hear other sounds in addition to your music is a safe rule of thumb for your hearing as well as if you are listening to music on the go. Also, give your ears a rest by removing your headphones every so often.
Keep the sound as low as possible on the TV and radio
Noise blaring out endlessly for hours is never good and if you have to shout to make yourself heard, the volume is too high. You should be able to have a conversation over the ambient background noise of TV and radio and if you can’t, then it is too loud.
Be aware of loud noises in the workplace or at home
If you work in, or close to, an environment where you are irritated by noise and your hearing is being affected (drills, machinery etc), speak to your manager. OSHA has published guidelines for workplace noise safety. With earplugs, you should still be able to hear things like speech, ambient noise, warnings, alarms, telephones, and radios.
At home, be aware of loud noises including a lawn mower, leaf blower, or power tools. Most hardware stores have varying types of ear protection for these devices.
Reduce loud music in the car
While it's tempting to have our favorite songs blasting out as we drive around, we need to realize that loud noise in a confined space puts undue pressure on our ears. Enjoy but don’t overdo it. In addition, by keeping the volume down you’ll be able to hear emergency vehicles and others that are honking to get your attention.
Don’t use cotton swabs (Q-tips)
Using cotton swabs or Q-tips, is a common but inadvisable way to remove earwax. Earwax is normal and self-cleans the ear, preventing dust and particles from getting in. Inserting cotton swabs or tissues in the ear can damage your ear canal and ear drum. Obviously, do not use anything sharp like bobby pins or needles to clean your ears. If you feel an inordinate amount of wax building up that is affecting your hearing, see your physician who can use a water spray to remove extra wax.
Have regular hearing tests
We go to an eye doctor on a regular basis, but we don’t go to an audiologist regularly. While your primary care doctor should check your ears regularly, if you feel irregularities with your hearing, you should seek out regular hearing tests, which will advise you of any issues with your ears. If you need extra support with your current hearing devices or need to be fitted for brand new hearing aids, a hearing test is the best way to understand your hearing health and keep your ears working optimally. Furthermore, know that some medications and illnesses can affect your hearing. Sometimes ear pain can originate in the teeth or jaws or the neck. By knowing the signs of hearing loss, you can practice prevention by having regular check-ups.
Keep Calm and Carry on
High levels of stress and anxiety can put pressure on your nerves, affect your blood flow and cause spikes in body heat. Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) is a possible side effect from this stress. Staying calm and taking care of yourself is a good way to avoid this.
Stay dry especially your ears
If you don’t dry your ears properly after washing or swimming, excess moisture can cause bacterial build-up, affecting the ear canal, and the middle and inner ear area. If you sense residual water in your ear, drain it by tilting your head to one side. Ensure towel drying your ears after any bath or swim. However, if you have drainage without having gotten your ears wet, know that this is not normal and could suggest infection.
Regular cardiovascular exercise like walking, running or cycling keeps blood pumping and flowing. It also flows into and out of the ears, helping their internal workings stay healthy and in good working order.
Clean your ears regularly
Use sunscreen if you go outside and if you have any kind of scaly bumps seek medical advice. Further, If you have pierced ears, clean your earrings and earlobes regularly with rubbing alcohol.
If you scuba dive, learn and practice proper underwater techniques to avoid potentially damaging changes in pressure inside your ears. Likewise, when flying in an airplane, swallow and yawn frequently when the plane is coming down to equalize pressure in your ears. If you have an upper respiratory problem such as a cold or sinus infection, take a decongestant a few hours before landing, and/or use a decongestant spray just prior to descending and on landing. There are special earplugs with filters to help equalize air pressure in ears during air travel.
Hopefully these tips will lead to a long and problem free life with your ears. Take care of them, they are the only ones you will get!