14 ways to preserve your hearing
Most medical issues are complicated; hearing problems, by contrast, are pretty simple. In the majority of cases, they are caused by - you guessed it - prolonged exposure to loud sounds. But it's OK, we can help you preserve your hearing
Sadly, modern living is decidedly noisy
Whereas most of human history lacked engines, machines and amplified music, today's life exposes us to a never-ending parade of loud sound. Some of that is to do with lifestyle choices - living in an urban environment, a love of rock music, frequent flying.
For many others, it's job-related: just a week as a firefighter, police officer, factory worker, farmer, construction worker, musician or working in the military or heavy industry can damage your hearing.
Your first move? Do all you can to protect the hearing you have right now
The first few tips are common sense - protect yourself from loud noises. But these may be the hardest to take action on: many people worry that earplugs and hearing aids will make them look old or silly. Wrong. With the rise of mobile-phone usage and MP3 players, there's hardly any adult—or teenager—who doesn't have ear gadgets of some type.
No one notices, and no one cares, if you have a hearing aid or sound-blocking tool in your ear! With that in mind …
1. Buy earplugs and keep them in your home, garage, car and bag
Wear them when you'll be exposed to any sound over 85 decibels - such as lawn equipment, a loud concert, a wedding or social event with loud music, an afternoon target-shooting, even time in a loud health club.
Don't rely on cotton balls or bits of tissue stuffed in your ears; they'll screen out only about 7 decibels of sound, while foam earplugs can block up to 32 decibels. Need more protection? Look into custom-made earplugs from an audiologist, or special sound-deadening earmuffs. In case you need the option of being able to take calls or listen to music, you should look out for hearing protection that can be connected to an audio source. Better yet, go for Bluetooth hearing protection so that you do not have to deal with tangling cables.
2. Love your headphones?
Ask a friend if he or she can hear the music, too.
Your tunes are turned up TOO LOUD if others can hear the sounds from your ears or headphones from a metre away, warns the UK's Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID). And listen to music piped directly into your ears for only about 1½ hours a day at normal volume—just 5 minutes at top volume. Beyond that can cause hearing loss.
3. Change seats at a noisy event
If it's too loud where you are - at a concert, meeting or social event—move.
Do the same if you can't hear someone who's less than a metre away, if you have to raise your own voice to be heard or if the sounds around you begin to seem muffled. Again, there's nothing old-fashioned about removing yourself from overly loud situations.
4. Wear earplugs at holidays celebrated with a bang, too
Fireworks and loud, booming rockets are a staple of festivities around the world.
Enjoy them to the fullest—with your eyes. Meanwhile, keep earplugs firmly in place in your ears.
5. Keep earplugs on your bedside table
A small Canadian study found that bedmates of snorers suffered hearing loss in the ear closest to the person making all that night noise.
Snoring can reach 80 decibels—as loud as someone yelling for help. Sometimes it can reach 90 —equivalent to heavy traffic noise.
6. Get your medication checked
Many prescription and non-prescription drugs can damage the ear and cause hearing loss.
These include high doses of aspirin, anti-malarials and antibiotics, including erythromycin, vancomycin, tetracycline, gentamicin and streptomycin.
7. Ask about earwax
Embarrassing but true: sometimes, hearing loss is simply the result of a gradual accumulation of earwax.
It can block the ear canal and prevent the transmission of soundwaves. Ask your doctor to check your ears and remove any build-up.
8. Control your blood sugar
When specialists from Whipps Cross Hospital in London tested the hearing of 102 diabetic patients compared with people from the general population, they found that the diabetics were significantly more likely to have hearing loss, especially at low and middle frequencies.
Hearing thresholds got worse the longer the duration of diabetes. High blood sugar levels damage the tiny nerves and blood vessels in the ears—and throughout the body—giving people with diabetes one more reason to keep their sugar levels healthy.
9. Snack on pumpkin seeds
In scientific studies, magnesium deficiencies seem to stress cells in the ear.
A two-month study of army recruits found that a little magnesium seemed to protect them from some permanent noise-related hearing loss. Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of magnesium, as are silverbeet (Swiss chard), fish, linseeds and almonds.
10. Have a glass of orange juice at breakfast
In a Dutch study of 728 older women and men, those who got 800 mcg of folic acid a day had less hearing loss after three years than those who didn't.
Split-pea soup, wholegrain bread, spinach and fortified breakfast cereals are also great sources of this important B vitamin.
11. Enjoy a glass of wine, in silence
Soothe and protect your ears at the same time.
Some research suggests that a little alcohol somehow slows age-related hearing loss.
12. Get moving!
Exercise improves blood flow to all body cells—including the ever-so-delicate hair cells inside your ears.
But don't listen to loud music on headphones while you walk or work out. A Swedish study found that even at a moderate volume, exercisers with headphones had hearing loss after just 10 minutes.
13. Stop the buzz of tinnitus
Ringing in the ears is a problem for 10-14 per cent of older adults - often, the noise sounds like a squeal, a roar or a whistle or hiss.
Controlling your blood pressure and lowering your cholesterol can help. So can avoiding alcohol, which increases blood flow to the inner ear. Quiet ‘white noise’ such as a fan or soft radio static can help to mask the buzz.
14. Have a bowl of vegetable soup and a fruit salad topped with nuts
Laboratory studies suggest that extra vitamins A, C and E may protect against ear damage caused by exposure to loud noises.
Skip the supplements, though. Get extra vitamin A from sweet potatoes, carrots and silverbeet (Swiss chard), as well as mango, papaya and apricots. Soak up extra vitamin E in almonds, pistachios and wheatgerm. For vitamin C, how about citrus, strawberries and red capsicums (sweet peppers).
Need more information about the hearing loss, including its types and causes? Find more here from our carefully selected partner, Hidden Hearing.