An estimated three million people in the UK are living with untreated hearing loss, which can deeply affect quality of life. What are some of the best ways to protect and improve your hearing, to prevent hearing loss issues from affecting you?
Types of Hearing Loss
Before we look at what causes hearing loss, it’s important to understand that there are a few different types of hearing loss with different causes.
- Sensorineural: This is the most common type of hearing loss, It occurs when inner ear nerves or hair cells are damaged (due to ageing, injury etc.) and no longer transmit sound signals to the brain properly. It is often permanent.
- Conductive: This is usually caused by obstructions in the outer or middle ear, which prevent sounds from entering the middle ear. It can often be treated with medication or surgery.
- Mixed: A combination of both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss.
- Auditory Processing Disorder: This is when the brain has problems processing the information in sound.
Common Causes of Hearing Loss
The damage that leads to sensorineural hearing loss can be commonly caused by:
- Excessive noise exposure or injury to the ears
- Measles, mumps, shingles or meningitis
- Ototoxic medications
- High fever
- Ménière’s disease (an inner ear disorder)
Obstructions and issues that cause conductive hearing loss include:
- Ear infections and fluid build-up
- Excessive wax build-up
- A foreign object in the ear canal
- Perforation or scarring of the eardrum
- Dislocation of the middle ear bones
- Abnormal bone growths or tumours
9 Tips for Protecting & Improving Your Hearing
1. Prevent and protect: If you’re often in a very noisy environment, wear a pair of protective earplugs with filters that will allow you to hear conversations, but reduce harmful noise levels.
2. Avoid earbuds: Choose over-the-ear headphones to listen to music and other audio, rather than earbuds that fit directly next to your eardrum.
3. The 60/60 rule: Listen to music with your headphones at no more than 60% volume, for no more than 60 minutes a day.
4. Make time for recovery: If you’re in a very noisy environment for a prolonged period (for example, a club, concert or bar), try to take regular 5-minute breaks away from the noise. Allow your ears several hours without loud sounds or music to recover afterwards.
5. Swim smart: Excess moisture can let bacteria get into the ear canal and cause infections. After swimming or bathing, always gently but thoroughly towel-dry your ears. Use swimmer’s earplugs if you spend a lot of time in the water.
6. Do your cardio: Walking, cycling, running and other cardio exercises are good for your ears. They get the blood pumping to all parts of the body, helping to keep the internal parts of your ears healthy. Remember to always wear a helmet when cycling, as a head injury could damage your hearing.
7. Solve puzzles: Fun and challenging puzzles like crosswords and Sudoku help to keep your mind sharp and prevent brain atrophy, helping to prolong hearing health.
8. Exercise your ears: Simple hearing exercises can help you to keep your ears sharp, by honing in on where a sound is coming from and what is making the sound.
9. Get regular check-ups: It’s important to get regular hearing tests because the earlier your audiologist can find a problem, the easier it is to treat.
How Often Should I Get My Hearing Tested?
Audiologists recommend that adults get their hearing checked every 10 years until the age of 50 and every three years after that, or at intervals recommended by your own audiologist.
If you notice anything unusual – such as difficulty hearing, or pain, irritation or ringing in your ears – don’t hesitate to see an audiologist or hearing specialist immediately for an examination. Everybody is susceptible to hearing loss, and nobody is “too young” to be affected.
Take a free hearing health check online and find out if you need to make an appointment to help you make the most of your hearing.