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How To Prevent Hearing Loss

If you're anything like us, then the sound of silence sets your teeth on edge. Who wants to be bored or lonely? Not us! So we go to concerts and sporting events, fire up the leaf blower and love blasting music without giving a second thought to what is happening to our hearing.

But if you've ever lost your hearing due to loud noise (or even a bad cold), it can seem like a nightmare: not being able hear conversations, feeling isolated and always having trouble knowing what is going on around you. And long-term exposure can lead to permanent hearing loss — which would make life intolerable.

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The good news is that if you are careful to protect your hearing, you can avoid or at least delay significant hearing loss. You can even enjoy loud sounds without damaging your ears. Here are the do's and don'ts of protecting your hearing:

Don'ts of Protecting Your Hearing

1. Don't be lulled into a false sense of security about loud sounds — including music.

People tend to think that because music is pleasant, it must be safe. Not true! And it's not just the lyrics that count; it can be the beat and tempo as well. The volume of all sounds counts when it comes to potential for damage. Listening to music at high volumes can damage your hearing.

2. Don't be fooled by the simple earplug.

Simple foam earplugs are inexpensive and easy to find, but they're not very effective in blocking sound. Many people also find them uncomfortable (and if ears are not covered, they can reduce the bass sounds that make music seem rich). They are best for occasional use.

3. Don't assume that if you like loud noises you must have excellent hearing.

It's important to remember that people of all ages can lose their hearing. It's not uncommon for musicians to experience gradual hearing loss after years of exposure to amplified music. Even people with perfect hearing are more likely to lose their hearing if they are exposed to loud sounds for a long time.

4. Don't rely on the assumption that everyone is responsible about protecting their hearing.

There's no way of telling how responsible your friends, family, colleagues or neighbors are about protecting their own ears. That means you have no way of knowing if the volume on your sound devices will be high or low enough when you are together.

5. Don't think you can get away without protecting your ears if you're only around loud sounds for a moment.

The damage can be done very quickly if the sound is loud enough, even for an instant. So protect your ears for every exposure to noise, whether it's a tool or power tool, a sporting event or music playing in your car. All of these are hazards to your hearing if you don't protect yourself properly.

Dos of Protecting Your Hearing

1. Do consider earplugs an essential accessory when involved in noisy activities.

At the very least, you should have a few pairs on hand. You can get them at your local drug or discount store. I prefer earplugs that have a hollow, compressible "stem" that fits into the opening of your ear canal, as opposed to those made from solid molded plastic. While either kind is better than nothing, the stem-style plugs are easier to use and more comfortable for most people. The trick is to find a style that comfortably stays in your ears when you put them in and take them out.

If you prefer a little more protection from sound, you might also want a pair of foam earplugs with an orange or yellow filter inserted into their stems.

2. Do protect your ears with earmuffs.

The reality is that you can't always choose the volume on your sound sources, but earmuffs can help reduce the noise around you. Earmuffs are made for musicians and sound engineers, but they are also widely available in drug-store chains and department stores. The advantage of earmuffs is that their user can control the loudness of the sound source they are connected to, instead of being at the mercy of whatever level was set before they connected them to their MP3 player or CD player. Look for models designed specifically for portable devices such as iPods, music players and cell phones.

3. Do wear hearing protection every time you are around loud sounds.

If you don't wear them on a regular basis, it's easy to forget to put them on when you need to. The result? You become blasé about protecting your hearing and end up playing music or using tools at unthinkably dangerous volumes. Even if I'm just mowing the lawn, I always protect my ears with earplugs under my ear muffs or headphones. After all, what's the point of enjoying whatever is blasting out of the speakers if it means risking permanent damage to your ears? And remember, once your hearing is gone it is almost impossible to get back!

4. Do protect your ears when using tools.

This goes for power tools and all other kinds of noisy gear, including lawn mowers, leaf blowers and weed trimmers. No one ever wants to shed a tear when they see a kid in a football helmet or concert headgear and fancy ear protection. So we ignore the fact that we're not immune to the effects of hearing loss — even if we may be able to hear just fine after getting our heads blown off by lawn mower blasts.

5. Do keep track of how much noise you've been exposed to at work or school lately.

If you don't know how much noise you are experiencing, how can you judge how much protection to use? Time to level with your ears. Do it for yourself, for the sake of your hearing, and for the benefit of others whose lives might be affected by your choices.

Other Questions

Can you stop hearing loss?

There is no permanent treatment for noise-induced hearing loss. In fact, if damage is done when you're a baby, there's no way to reverse the damage. The only treatment is to protect your ears from further harm by using earplugs or earmuffs in situations that would cause damage otherwise.

What are 5 ways to prevent deafness?

The most effective and immediate is to protect your ears. (See the answer above.) But there are other things you can do:

Don't smoke — smoking can damage your hearing by causing chronic otitis externa, a skin condition that causes permanent hearing loss. Not only that, but smoking is a hazardous activity for any health reason, as well as potentially causing heart problems and lung cancer.

Exercise — regular exercise builds up the muscles in your heart and lungs, which reduces your risk of heart disease and stroke. It also improves your fitness level, which is good for preventing weight problems, diabetes and other health problems.

Maintain a healthy weight — being overweight is a factor in the development of chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and arthritis. Being underweight has the same effect.

Get enough sleep — society has determined that we need eight hours of sleep each night to function properly (and to maintain our mental acuity). But restful sleep is often interrupted because of stress and the strain of keeping tabs on the world. If you're too tired to get enough sleep, try to catch up on that time once or twice a week.

Keep away from noise — like most other things in life, it's good to know your limits. If your ears are ringing after attending a rock concert, you may have pushed it too far.

Can you regain hearing?

It depends on the cause of your hearing loss. In most cases, there is no way to get your hearing back. It is possible to compensate for the loss, however, by using appropriate hearing protection.

What is good to eat for hearing?

Eat a lot magnesium rich foods like dark chocolate and green leafy vegetables and drink a lot of water and herbal tea.

What vitamins help hearing?

Vitamins A, C and E; zinc; and magnesium are some of the many nutrients that are associated with hearing.

While there are no known cures or treatments for deafness, there is hope for the millions of people who suffer from hearing loss. Hearing aids have come a long way in the last few years, capable of restoring deafness to almost normal levels. If you have sensitivity to loud sounds, it's possible to get custom-made ear plugs that will block out noises without dampening your enjoyment of music or TV shows.

If you go the hearing aid route, be sure to find a doctor who has extensive experience with noise-induced hearing loss and can get you fitted for an appropriate type of device.

Conclusion

Most people's hearing loss is a result of chronic exposure to loud sounds, not a sudden burst of trouble. The result is a dulling of "perception" and a loss of hearing.

As those with hearing problems know, the ability to hear clearly gets worse as time goes by. That's because loud noises can damage your inner ear over time, causing permanent damage that keeps you from being able to hear as well as you once did.

If you are exposed to loud noises, ear plugs are the only way, short of surgery, you can protect your hearing. So if you listen to loud music on headphones or work around loud machines for a living, start wearing hearing protection now.

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