According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 1 billion people globally are at high risk of developing hearing loss, a chronic medical condition that reduces capacity to hear and process speech as well as sound. Nearly 1 in 5 people already have some degree of hearing loss in the U.S., exceeding rates of cancer and diabetes. Being proactive about your hearing health can prevent you from experiencing impaired hearing. Practicing the following safety measures can protect your hearing health and wellness:
1. Reduce your exposure to loud noise. One of the most common causes of hearing loss is exposure to loud noise. One time or regular absorption of loud noise can permanently damage the sensory cells in the inner ear – resulting in the brain receiving less auditory information, producing hearing loss. There are many ways you can reduce your exposure to loud noise which can prevent noise induced hearing loss. This includes: wearing protection, maintaining low volume settings on electronic devices, taking alternate routes to avoid construction sites and/or traffic, taking 5-10 minute listening breaks throughout the day to give your ears and brain a break from constantly absorbing and processing sound etc.
2. Wear hearing protection. It is estimated that over 30 million people are regularly exposed to hazardous noise levels. Wearing hearing protection is a great way to mitigate the potential harm of loud noise. This includes headphones, earbuds, earplugs, and earmuffs which provide a physical barrier for the ears; reducing the amount of loud noise you absorb. A useful tip is to wear hearing protection when navigating environments that are nosier – while commuting, at work, concerts etc.
3. Use noise canceling headphones. If you often use earbuds or headphones to listen to audio, you would likely benefit from noise canceling types. Noise canceling technology is designed to reduce background noise which prevents people from needing to increase the volume when moving through environments that are noisy. This allows people to listen to audio safely in all settings.
4. Measure noise levels. It is important to be aware of the noise levels you are exposed to. According to experts, people can be exposed to 85dB of sound for 8 hours but for noise that exceeds 85dB, exposure time should be reduced by half for every 3 decibel increase. A simple way you can know noise levels is by downloading an app that measures the decibels in your environment. This allows you to then adjust your exposure time.
5. Boost nutrient intake. There are various nutrients that support healthy hearing. This includes magnesium, potassium, zinc, and folic acid. These nutrients support blood flow, protect the ears against infection, help regulate fluid levels in the ears etc. which all contribute to absorbing and processing sound waves effectively. You can increase your intake of these nutrients by integrating more fruits, vegetables, and plant based foods into your daily diet.
6. Avoid triggers. Studies show that smoking and drinking can increase the risk of hearing loss. The active ingredients, nicotine and alcohol, being consumed can affect blood vessels and restrict blood flow throughout the body including the inner ear where sound waves are processed. Avoid these triggers by reducing your consumption or complete lying eliminating these behaviors.
7. Exercise. Physical activity supports healthy blood flow, reduces health risks, and supports healthy hearing. There are simple ways you can increase your physical activity including taking a daily walk and finding a physical activity you enjoy doing: riding bikes, water aerobics, yoga, golfding etc.
8. Take advantage of hearing aids. If you wear hearing aids, be sure to wear them during waking hours. Also, explore the various technologies they offer to further support your hearing health in everyday environments. This includes: digital noise reduction, voice recognition, tinnitus management, wireless connectivity etc. Discuss these features with your hearing healthcare provider who can recommend the technologies that can best meet your hearing and lifestyle needs!
9. Prioritize care for health conditions. A number of medical conditions can increase the risk of hearing loss – cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, osteoporosis etc. If you have any of these health conditions, be sure to prioritize care for them.
10. Get your hearing tested regularly. Getting your hearing evaluated yearly allows you to track your hearing health and identify any changes you may experience over time. This supports early treatment which is incredibly helpful.
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