Hearing Protection: The 10 Rules to Live By

Ear Protection

Most hearing loss is irreversible. Knowing the right steps can help you prevent or minimize hearing loss.

We are at the forefront of innovation in hearing aid technology. But it’s disheartening to see the increase in preventable hearing damage. We would love to see people become better educated about the risks, and take charge of their hearing health now. So, without further ado, here are 10 key ways to safeguard your hearing:

  1. Be aware of high-noise environments. Noise, especially above 85 decibels, is the most severe and preventable cause of hearing loss. As a general rule of thumb, if you have to shout to be heard over a noise, it can be harmful to your hearing. Rock concerts and football games, power tools and lawn mowers, hunting and motorcycle riding, are a few of the activities that can hit extreme decibel ranges and damage your hearing.The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommends limiting exposure to 60 minutes in a 90-decibels environment. Yet, in 2013, the Seattle Seahawks fans hit a noise record of 136.6 decibels. Fans boasted on Facebook, “Be LOUD AND PROUD and blow my eardrums out!” They may regret that in a few years.
  2. Bring ear protection to noisy places. If extended time in noisy environments is unavoidable, you can be an advocate for your own hearing by wearing earplugs. Personal ear protection doesn’t have to be obvious or nerdy-looking; today’s earplugs are so small they can hardly be seen, and can reduce noise by 15 to 30 decibels.Hearing health advocates are recognizing the increased noise levels in public spaces and are pushing for stadiums to provide earplugs. The Hearing, Speech and Deafness Center in Seattle took the lead in this initiative and arranged a donation of 30,000 earplugs for the loud Seahawks crowd.
  3. Avoid smoking and secondhand smoke. Research shows that smoking, along with exposure to other people’s smoke, can have a detrimental effect on your hearing. Immediately quitting can help you prevent further damage.
  4. Remember the problem could be in your backyard. You might not be a rock-and-roll fan, but if you mow your lawn weekly you might still be jeopardizing your hearing. Personal ear protection is essential for those who do regular yard work with loud mowers, weed-eaters and blowers, or for those who work regularly with power tools.
  5. Be informed about your medications. Some medicines are known to be harmful to hearing, or ototoxic, but patients fail to ask questions about the side effects of their medications. Be a fully informed patient. If the medication you are prescribed could damage your hearing, then carefully consider whether the benefits outweigh the risks. Also, inquire if an alternative medication is available.
  6. Keep your immunizations up to date. Many illnesses, such as measles, mumps, rubella and meningitis, can cause permanent hearing loss. Those diseases are preventable today through immunizations, making it imperative that people of all ages ensure they are up to date on their shots.
  7. Follow safety rules during physical activity. Accidents are another chief cause of hearing damage. The effects of many accidents can be lessened by common sense and safety equipment. Seat belts in cars, helmets while biking or skateboarding, and taking all precautions while scuba diving can keep your body and your hearing safe.
  8. Never put anything into your ear canals. The ear is a very delicate instrument, and attempts to remove ear wax often cause harm. As a rule, don’t stick anything into your ears for any reason. If you want to use cotton swabs, use them to clean the outside of the ear; refrain from sticking them into your ear canal.
  9. Protect yourself from sexually transmitted diseases. There is a known connection between some common sexually transmitted diseases and infections, notably syphilis and herpes, and hearing damage. The infected person or a baby born to a mother with an STD can be affected. Safety first!
  10. Treat ear issues promptly. One key strategy to prevent permanent hearing damage in children or adults is seeking quick treatment of ear infections, severe ear pain, tinnitus and other otological issues. A family doctor, or an ear, nose and throat specialist, and their possible referrals to an audiologist, can help address issues before they lead to future hearing damage.

Are there any tips or questions you’d like to share? Please share them in the comments reply below.

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Steve Brinkman

Director of Customer Care at Beltone
Steve has been Beltone's Director of Customer Care for the last 14 years. His goal is to partner with our national network of 1,500 Beltone locations to help ensure the best possible hearing care experience for our patients. More about Steve

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